MVRHS committee approves emergency repair work for summer

The committee agreed to take $146,000 from a surplus account, but more money may be needed later.

Emergency repairs will be made to the high school this summer. — Sam Moore

After grappling over which necessary repairs, of many, to prioritize for completion this summer, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) committee Monday approved $146,000 worth of spending to address heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) repairs, athletic field repairs, and repairs to the Career and Technical Education (CTE) windows, doors, and siding. The committee will discuss whether or not to fund $190,000 worth of additional HVAC air-handling unit renovations at a budget meeting later this month.

The repair list is based on a capital-needs assessment school officials, including school facilities director Mike Taus, have been working on all year. Athletic field repairs will cost $40,000, two HVAC projects will cost $26,000 and $60,000 respectively, and the CTE envelope repairs will cost $20,000. The state certified $686,689 worth of excess and deficiency money — leftover taxpayer money that does not go toward a specific line in the operating budget — in May, which will be drawn from to fund the repairs.

“I’ve listened very intently this year on the discussions about E and D, and how it could be used and should be used and has been used, and the criticisms of how we’ve used it as sort of a bank account for repairs for the building,” interim MVRHS Principal Peg Regan said. “So we’ve been working all year — Mike Taus, Mark Friedman, Barbara-Jean [Chauvin], and myself — on a needs assessment for the capital needs of the school, using all the studies that you authorized a year ago, and putting together a chart … of what things are needed for air quality, for safety, and for security.”

Prioritizing problems

Athletic field safety concerns only recently fell into the spotlight during several public meetings about a proposal for a new, privately funded $12 million athletic complex. Committee member Robert Lionette of Chilmark, who also sits on the MVRHS facilities subcommittee, questioned whether they had enough data on the state of the athletic fields, and whether it should be considered an immediate priority.

“I can’t even give you a sense of the scope of what emergency health and safety issues are on our radar screen right now, so much so that we have asked for another [facilities subcommittee] meeting so that we can be able to better present to the whole committee at the end of this month exactly where we are,” he said. “Right now there are five items, and the second and third and fourth are vital, and I have no problem putting them on the list. I have no problem fixing the fields either, but there are — and I’m not exaggerating — 50, 60, 70 other line items that we need to analyze and prioritize over the next two to three years.”

Committee member Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter of West Tisbury, who has been vocal about how the committee utilizes the so-called E and D monies, questioned why the repairs were not factored into the operating budget.

“We did not have these numbers in September, October, November, December, January,” Ms. Regan said. “We developed these numbers from all of the studies and all of the reports and all the assessments that Mike has done. Mike only came onboard in October. It was impossible to know what the costs of the health and safety repairs in the school would be until we had some time to study them.”

MVRHS finance manager Mark Friedman said building repairs and athletic field maintenance will be factored into the fiscal year 2018 budget.

Waiting and waiting

Mr. Lionette and Mr. Manter asked that the committee revisit the request at a June 27 budget meeting when more data could be presented. Ms. Regan, MVRHS principal from 1999 to 2008, said a lack of focus on school maintenance and repairs in the past has left the school with an increasingly large bill.

“I will say, coming back after seven years, this is seven years of deferred maintenance,” she said. “You can say, Well, we’ll defer it two more years, but I’m telling you, the more you defer it, the higher the bill gets.”

Mr. Taus added that there was a timely nature to the request, especially with the athletic fields. He said he was ready to begin work on the fields this week.

“There is a time issue here in that the month of June is going to be by me very quickly, and I have to seed, topsoil, dress, and get the program going, or I’m going to miss the fall,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult growing seeds in July, and in this heat and the sun. My irrigation system is up and running, it’s been tested, it’s working, and now we have to implement the growth. There’s holes in the field, and they need to be patched and addressed.”

He said he has a plan in place to make field maintenance an ongoing process throughout the school year. “It can’t just be done once and ignored,” he said. “It has to be done throughout the year.”

Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea said the vote was crucial so that the two months without students in the building could be utilized effectively.

“We have to plan so that last day of school, June 24, the next day the work starts,” he said. “It can’t be the next day we start thinking about looking for bids, looking for estimates, because the work will not start until August, and we won’t get anything done. The reason why we’re here is because we waited. We have waited and waited and waited, and done not enough.”

Committee member Kris O’Brien of Oak Bluffs pointed out that the CTE envelope repairs were also necessary so the school administration could secure an occupancy permit for the coming school year, which Ms. Regan confirmed.

“There was a time in which he [Mr. Taus] and I and Bob Whritenour [Oak Bluffs town administrator] were discussing whether we could occupy the building without an occupancy certificate, and whether we could even hold school here this year,” she said.

Ms. Regan said she did not want the incoming principal, Sara Dingledy, to undergo the same ordeal when the occupancy certificate expires in late June. “We need another occupancy certificate to start school in September, otherwise we’ll be looking for another building to have school in, and I don’t think that’s what you want,” she said. “That’s the background, and that’s where these repairs came from.”

The committee voted in favor of two of the HVAC change orders, which are a part of an ongoing HVAC repair process that started in November. Mr. Manter was opposed. The committee also voted in favor of the athletic field and CTE envelope repairs. Mr. Manter and Mr. Lionette were opposed. The committee will discuss an additional $190,000 worth of air-handling unit renovations at a budget meeting on June 27.