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Town Meeting Set on Huckleberry Roof Replacement

Selectmen and Board of Finance move to replace Huckleberry Hill Elementary roof this summer, rather than next.

The Board of Selectmen (BOS) held a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss appropriating $966,541 to replace the roof at (HHES), which was later approved by the Board of Finance (BOF) at their regular meeting. The project, which will now go to a town meeting, was originally included in the , however in order to have the roof replaced this summer, the appropriation would have to be included in the current fiscal year.

The roof, which was put on in 1965, is in poor repair and water began leaking into a classroom earlier this month. The students were moved to another room while the leak was fixed, but a more permanent solution is needed.

Fixing the HHES roof was a “centerpiece capital project” in the schools budget proposal this year, Director of Business and Technology Art Colley said. “It’s been on our radar, this is just a different way to go about it.”

In order to get the final design specifications finished and the bid process started in time to begin construction this summer, the timetable had to be moved up.

“The Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen said, ‘We need to fix this roof now,’” First Selectman Bill Davidson explained. In order to get that done, “We have to get the paperwork moving.”

The administration also decided to replace the roof in its entirety, rather than stripping the top and making targeted repairs.

“That roof is over 45 years old,” Davidson said, “Who knows what we’ll find underneath.”

With the $966,541 appropriation, the town should be able to complete the project without any overruns, so no matter what is found underneath the existing roof, “If nothing goes right, we’re still OK,” he added.

Replacing the roof rather than a refurbishment is a “little more upfront but we’ll get money back from the state and a roof that’s going to last with no problems,” Colley said, referring to the 31 percent state reimbursement ($299,628) that will be returned to the town once the project is complete.

A town meeting has been set for April 4 at 7 p.m. in the (BHS) media center for voters to approve the appropriation. On that same date, town meetings will also be held on the and .

Steven DeVaux March 15, 2012 at 10:21 AM
Amazing how: 1) The roof "suddenly" failed. 2) The number is "just under 1 million required for a referendum" 3) The 40 year old portable demolition isn't being addressed at the same time in a "comprehensive solution". Another piecemeal project. Where was this on the 2012 Plan of Conservation and Development?
Barbara Gillis March 15, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Can they fix the parking lot as well?
Rosa Hopcroft March 16, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Amazing? What is amazing is that the roof has not completely failed. Just because the problem is "suddenly" noticed, does not mean that it has not been a problem for a long while. This is not the first time the Huckleberry roof has leaked. It has been patched many time. The difference this time is that not only did the patch work fail, but so did more of the roof. 587 kids under that roof. 25 kids sit in the classroom mentioned above every day. That is what is amazing!
John Hawley March 16, 2012 at 01:53 AM
I'm sure that you or one of your FOI buddies can file an FOI to beat this to death. Roofs traditionally have a 40 year life...sounds like common sense to me but the...it's Brookfield.
michael delvalle March 17, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I'm not sure , but isn't the new school budget increase a million this year ? Is it possible that the BOF & BOS can go back & trim maybe 500,000 to help pay for the HHES roof ?
Ken March 17, 2012 at 09:19 PM
The expense for repairing the HHES roof is not a single or current year expense. It is a capital cost. Capital costs are typically bonded. A comparable example for a homeowner might be replacement of a septic system. While cash to pay for the completed work does go out the door when the work is completed the money used to pay the contractor is actually borrowed money. If the bond or the loan to repair your septic has a 15 yr term, then only 1/15 of the principal cost plus interest expense is the cost you need to budget for and pay each year.
Steven DeVaux March 18, 2012 at 01:14 AM
It appears the Board of Education's Facilities SubCommittee failed to maintain an eye on all the schools as it concentrated on the Brookfield Sports Complex.
Rob Gianazza March 18, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Not true. The HHES roof was on our radar. Capital money is used in a very modest and conservative manner. That's why the high school roof is being resurfaced in phases. Last year money was allocated to address concerns pertaining to the roof at HHES. What I don't understand is why the current BOE is recommending total roof replacement for HHES? This administration seems to be of the opinion that bonding is the answer to all financial crisis'. Bonding just pushes the expense into the future for the next administration to deal with. Like kicking a can down the road.
Rob Gianazza March 18, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Good question. The answer is no. The BOE budget is for the education of its' students. Roof replacement is a capital expense and therefore is paid for by the Town of Brookfield, not the schools. I know, left pocket/right pocket, it's all taxpayer money, the point is that they are two very separate budgets. The Capital budget that the BOE proposes is totally separate from the BOE educational budget and is controlled by the Town.
Rob Gianazza March 18, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Without proper drain work, repaving the parking lot would be a waste of taxpayer funds.
Steven DeVaux March 18, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Well appearances can be decieving and apparently were. My apologies Rob. In terms of always using bonding? They want to hand the kids the bill back when they graduate Brookfield High School in the form of higher property taxes. And they still haven't addressed the 40+ year old portables at Huckleberry.
Rob Gianazza March 18, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Good point about the portables Steve. Another can being kicked down the road. With smaller class sizes and a near constant enrollment (slightly decreasing) there is a need for more classrooms, not less. Also they have expanded special services into the portables. No more music on a cart either, there is a dedicated music room. I have been an advocate for removal of the portables for some time. They are not energy efficient, they require a lot of maintenance dollars too. Roof, windows, etc. The problem is that if the Town were to build a proper addition, they would be required to update the rest of the existing building up to current code. This is something we faced with the high school renovation. Not that it is a bad thing, but it all costs money. We in Brookfield need to decide how we want to spend our money. Do we want to patch up (sorry, no pun intended) the portables, or invest in permanent structures? Remember that there have been calls to close one of the buildings. This is a much more serious conversation than can really be held in this forum. Perhaps a Town Meeting of sorts to discuss our future as a town.
Steven DeVaux March 18, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Yes. As the Kahn Academy spreads, the need for space will shrink considerably. As Bill Gates educates his kids there by choice, I think has the capabilities of revamping the entire concept of education in short order. Not unlike how internet commerce shredded small hardgood retail businesses. And people are attracted to the price of that private education. There's already talks of new charter schools designed around them charging a fraction of the cost of public education.
Kevin O'Connor March 19, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Wait, why would people be more attracted to private school when there's something that can compete with it that is free? You comparison of how the internet revamped retail industry by eliminating small stores would mean that expensive private schools would be put out of business and big cheap public schools would remain the alternative (which would compare to Walmart in your example). Khan Academy is great and all, don't get me wrong. But if listen to Salman Khan's TED speech he even says that it needs to be integrated into the classroom, not a replacement to the classroom. It's a tool to help, you still need people who can go back through and walk students through problems in a way that makes sense to them. Salman presents problems in one way, many times there are other approaches that are possible. Furthermore, the Khan Academy doesn't satisfy all sections of education. You can't teach everything effectively using his model. In subjects such as history and literature his videos won't be anymore effective than Spark Notes. It would be the same thing. In those areas you would need to traditional education methods to satisfy that area. Khan Academy isn't a replacement to education, it's a tool to enhance it. Don't, at all, expect to see it shrinking enrollment sizes. One last thing, how can you charge at a fraction of a price of public schools? Public education is free in comparison. You would pay the same taxes anyway onto of their cost.
Steven DeVaux March 19, 2012 at 03:34 AM
We'll see. Folks had similar arguments about e-commerce. Public schools will remain the same, while charter schools can adapt to the new way much faster. It's about offering a choice and people the opportunity to choose given their economic constraints. Public schools are by no means cheap. When the capital costs, teacher pension costs and other in-kind services are factored in, public education is actually more expensive than private schools. You only need look at the salary structures of teachers in each to do the comparison since that is 80% of the cost.
Kevin O'Connor March 19, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Oh I do wholeheartedly agree that public education is more expensive. The difference though is that education is funded by tax payers. The cost of education is thus distributed. Even if you have a child that goes to private school, you're still paying your share of education through taxes. Unless a significant decline in enrollment occurs, don't expect your taxes to decline. So on the front-end of things, yes, public education is free. The reason e-commerce succeeded is because it was competitive. It is less work, matched prices, convenient, and gives a bigger selection. That doesn't all apply here. Education is a whole different ballgame. My opinion is that services like Khan Academy will be integrated into classroom and could potentially make public education leaner and more efficient, but I don't see it replacing it. I should also point out, that one teacher at BHS, Mr. Cook, has taken it upon himself to publish videos in a similar format for his student based on what they're doing in class. They can be found on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/mrcooksin). Our school recently adopted the 1 to 1 iPad program which could easily integrate Khan Academy. Our public school district is not, at all, slow at adapting new technology. I think we are a model of what education is evolving to. For reference for people wondering about the Khan TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

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