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After One Bond Defeat, BOE Continues Quest to Repair Roofs

Board votes 8-0 to temporarily add new bond referendum to Dec. 11 ballot.

Last week, a larger-than-usual number of Westfield residents went to the polls and defeated a $16.9 million bond referendum that would have funded new roofs on all district buildings as well as a lighted turf field at the high school.

Last night, the Board of Education held its first public meeting since last Monday’s vote, further acknowledging the message residents had sent loud and clear, yet also remaining focused on a project that is still viewed as a necessity.

“The majority of roofs are in need of repair,” said Board President Richard Mattessich. “We will find a way to do that.”

The Board unanimously voted to place a new bond referendum on the Dec. 11 ballot, following a recommendation made by the district business office. The bond will at least be sufficient enough to pay for the replacement of the roofs at the high school, which is viewed as the district building most in need of roof repair. A district official present at the meeting last night said the high school roof leaks in several spots.

The Board had to approve the measure last night in order to inform the county by next week and place the measure – at least temporarily – on the December ballot. Members will have to decide during the Board’s next meeting (Oct. 22) whether or not to keep it there. There is a $1,400 placeholder fee to keep the measure on the ballot in the interim.

Mattessich said that a bond would be the most practical way to fund such an extensive measure. The alternative – using funds from the district operating budget – would likely require extensive cuts to other district programs. Mattessich again expressed a desire to move forward with the project as soon as possible in order to benefit from lower interest rates and favorable bidding costs.

Business Administrator Dana Sullivan accepted requests from several Board members for specific information to be gathered for and on-hand at the next meeting, including the status of each roof’s useful life and what potential tax impacts would be on residents.

The Board also accepted the business office’s recommendation to table discussions on the lighted turf field until a later date, instead focusing efforts on the roof repair project.

Tom Smith October 03, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Rich - thanks for the info. I didn't realize such detailed information about the roof project per school was available on your website. Will be interested to hear the results of the latest review.
Time For Change October 03, 2012 at 04:58 PM
boy oh boy-- lets all guess what FD stands for
NR9 October 03, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I think it’s great that Mr. Mattessich has decided to read/respond to comments from Westfield citizens here on Patch (though I strongly opposed the arrogant/insulting BOE decision to bundle what should have been two separate issues). I’d like to suggest to the BOE that Mr. Mattessich and other BOE members pay more attention to what people are saying on Patch and actually RESPOND directly to such comments on Patch, as Mr. Mattessich has done here. I realize a few BOE members have done so in the past but I think more online dialogue would be important in having BOE members being “in touch” with the people they are there to represent. Maybe Patch can set up special accounts for BOE members that are similar to the ones made by Patch staff, with a different icon/photo so we know the comments are authentic? Perhaps such an account can be made for Mayor Skibitsky and the Town Council members? Fire Chief? Police Chief? Etc. Patch has become a daily, real-time forum for such critical local issues and should be recognized and used as such. Waiting a few weeks for the next BOE or Town Council meeting to take place and then trying to get a few words in during the public speaker portion is so 1980’s. The technology for real-time talk/debate is here. Let’s use it.
Wally Westfield October 03, 2012 at 05:36 PM
no kidding, was this latest fiasco nothing more than a money grab? And the heck with Dolan; Buck Law and Larry Greene did 3 times the job of Dolan with 1/2 the man-power not to mention 10% more students in the system
Mitch Slater October 03, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Mr or Mrs Wally Westfield (sure wish I knew your real name), I would like to invite you (if you dare show your face) to observe a typical day in the life of Dr.Dolan. Your comments are way out of line- I have yet throughout my professional career in finance (and now volunteering in Education) have ever come across a harder working and more dedicated person than Peg Dolan. You have every right to disagree with her decisions (she probably makes 50 a day) but the 6000 plus kids in our school district are fortunate to have her leadership. And for the record, a "money grab"- is that really what you think we spend our time doing! Seriously?
Elizabeth Alterman (Editor) October 03, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Thanks, NR9. We would welcome anyone who would like to write a column, blog or letter to the editor to do so. Mayor Ziad Andrew Shehady is an avid blogger on Springfield Patch and it is a great way to keep residents informed on a more frequent basis. For anyone interested, I can be reached at liz.alterman@patch.com. Thanks, Liz
NR9 October 03, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Thank you Ms. Alterman for your reply. I think it's great that Springfield's mayor uses Springfield Patch in this way. I hope that Westfield's mayor, town council members, BOE members, fire/police chiefs, etc. will accept your invitation to connect with their constituents via the Patch. You and the rest of the Patch staff do a great job- Thanks for all you do each day!
Taxed Out October 03, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Mr. Slater, what else would you call the boards attempt to obtain more omey outside of the tax money you already are in control of. Reign in teachers, administrators, and Dolan's salaries and save for a rainy day when the roof above students heads begin to leak. Where did all the money go? I agree with calling it a money grab.
Scott Farkus October 03, 2012 at 07:56 PM
You are a bully Mitch Slater. Why do you need to know Mr or Mrs Wally's name? Are you going to get them?
NR9 October 03, 2012 at 08:28 PM
I agree with Mr. Farkus here. I find it disturbing that Mr. Slater continuously asks those using pseudonyms to use their real name. There are many good reasons why people choose to use a pseudonym for posting constructive comments on the internet. Let a person's comment stand on its own and agree with it or disagree with it. The name, real or pseudonym, is irrelevant.... unless you cannot provide adequate support to disagree with the comment and instead want to know the real name so you can attack that person's character. I don't necessarily agree with all that Wally Westfield (and South Westfielder, Sally McBride, Sarah Sloan, and others) write but I respect their wishes to make their opinions known while keeping their private life/identify private. And, if someone using a real name or a pseudonym is posting inappropriate and/or hateful messages, simply click "flag as inappropriate" to alert the Patch editors. But, if a message is posted with a constructive intent, pseudonym or real name, let the message stand and debate the message if you wish.
NR9 October 03, 2012 at 08:30 PM
... That being said, I do appreciate Mr. Slater's service to our community and I don't mean to take anything away from that appreciation in my just posted comment.
Rich Mattessich October 03, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Tom – Thank you. Yes – the information is pretty detailed and has been up since March. Information will be updated to include what we have learned over the past 6 months and discussed at the next meeting. Rich Mattessich President, Westfield Board of Education
Rich Mattessich October 03, 2012 at 08:32 PM
FD – don’t be stunned. Larger capital projects are often bonded. You reference the way things are “normally handled” with no context or examples. Similarly, you express a concern about our potentially bonding for things like boilers. As many of you know, we just paid for new boilers at two of our elementary schools out of our maintenance reserves (money raised through the operating budget). And these were just two examples of the many projects we have funded out of such funds over the past year. Take a look at our website, prior meetings and press releases. Rich Mattessich President, Westfield Board of Education
Rich Mattessich October 03, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Taxed Out – yes – that is what we will be doing. In fact, we already did it well in advance of the prior vote. And all the roof information has been on the website for over half a year (you note that it should have been done before the recent vote). No, we don’t want to cut other programs to fund the roofs – we wanted to avoid that with the bond – but we hear you. The information not on the website is what it will look like if we have to cut program. That will be discussed at our next meeting. Rich Mattessich President, Westfield Board of Education
Rich Mattessich October 03, 2012 at 08:33 PM
NR9 – Thanks. It is something we will consider. It is another source of information (even if redundant) and it could help control the misinformation that gets out there. Thanks. Rich Mattessich President, Westfield Board of Education
A.John Blake October 03, 2012 at 09:29 PM
I have often heard that it is not legal to float a bond to make repairs. A bond is reserved for capital projects. Has the BOE obtained any legal opinion that the repairs of the roofs are a legal basis for a bond? Just because something has been nominated a capital project does not make it such. There is no doubt the roofs are in their present condition because monies for repair were spent elsewhere. Adjust because the problem is large does not make it legal. So, has the Board obtained any opinion that what they wish to do is legal? Second, can one seek a bond issue to make repairs? A. John Blake
Mitch Slater October 03, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Scott Farkus- Impossible to take you seriously at all-. NR9- Appreciate your comment - you make some very good points that I had not considered- My view is that attacking anyone (like Scott did with Dr. Dolan, and now me) does not really advance the conversation or add to a healthy debate- It's just not necessary. For me personally, I have chosen only to add to conversations using my real name. But I respect that others see that differently. Let's keep debating the issues ,not personalities.
Luke October 03, 2012 at 11:29 PM
A public figure who is threatening people to show there face you are an absolute donkey. The more you speak and threaten people the more I loose trust in the BOE.
Scott Farkus October 04, 2012 at 10:56 AM
Mitch Slater, the feeling is mutual. Now I know why the other members of the board of education asked you to keep your mouth shut after the bond was defeated. Perhaps you should follow the advice more often.
Walkin Westfield October 04, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Nearly $3 million is spent annualy on the repayment of debt. Cannot the existing debt be refinanced and the retirement of prior bonds be accelerated to realize savings which could be allocated to finance the repair/replacement of roofs and the upgrading of HVAC using a lease purchase agreement. This would avoid having to spend additional tens of thousands of dollars on an uncertain bond referendum.
Bill October 04, 2012 at 04:17 PM
The teacher contract isn't going to be modified mid-term, so this is not a solution. Good schools, both their physical condition and the quality of the students they produce, create a town that attracts home buyers, which in turn increases property values. New roofing can be considered an investment, not an expense. If the investment is offset by a higher property value, this is bond I can support.
Bill October 04, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Unfortunately, the Board could be focusing on other important issues right now if it just hadn't tried such an ill-advised bundling of roofing with an unrelated pet project. Hopefully it's a lesson learned that will lead to better decision-making in the the future.
Mitch Slater October 04, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Walkin- Excellent question- We recently made an inquiry about the possibility to the underwriter (and Bond Counsel)that the district worked with for the last refunding, and they confirmed that there were no opportunities available . The district has issued refunding bonds to refund outstanding debt a number of times in the past few years. In September of 2011 the district issued $3,830,000 refunding bonds to refund its remaining outstanding callable 2001 Bonds. The 2011 refunding bonds mature through 2015 and are noncallable.
South Westfielder October 04, 2012 at 09:52 PM
FD, no matter what we feel about the Board as a whole or individual members, this has been covered over and over and over. There isn't an answer that will make you happy. A combination of over reliance on state aid that evaporated, the deliberate actions by past Board members NOT to capital improvements and maintenance because insurance would cover such improvements if something happened, and the need to fund other operating expenses. Some current members ran as a result of their feelings of outrage over this and the decisions that were made by the past administration. Mr. Slater, I can't believe I am writing this.
Mitch Slater October 05, 2012 at 03:45 AM
South Westfielder- Fine if you or anyone else wants to disagree with my words. But please keep my children out of it. I will only ask nicely once. I know you know better than that and will respect this "guidance".
South Westfielder October 05, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Mr. Slater, Read the comment more carefully before you attack. I did not attack your children or say anything personally about them, nor will I. That would be wrong. My remark was to a reality and provide a reason why someone like you has less to lose than others who wish to be anonymous. Chill out.
BOE Watcher October 05, 2012 at 02:13 PM
"I will only ask nicely once?" Mitch, you are not a capo in a mobster movie. Do you plan to do something to South Westfielder for his transgressive words? I have to agree with all the other posters. You seem like schoolyard bully finally being revealed for who you are.
BOE Watcher October 05, 2012 at 02:14 PM
"I will only ask nicely once?" Mitch, you are not a capo in a mobster movie. Do you plan to do something to South Westfielder for his transgressive words? I have to agree with all the other posters. You seem like schoolyard bully finally being revealed for who you are.
margaret w October 05, 2012 at 02:15 PM
When did mitch start defending dolan?
South Westfielder October 05, 2012 at 02:44 PM
@ Margaret, since he started receivng criticism that was directed at him. Public service isn't as easy as he thought and he is too sensitive to feedback.

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