Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The gift that keeps on costing

 Trailer for sale or rent...

So last night at our illustrious Select Board meeting, during a routine discussion of repackaging outstanding loans into one cheaper bond issue--refinanced with a low 2.16% interest rate--Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe asked Finance Director Sandy Pooler about the current status of the (not so) portable modular classrooms at the former Mark's Meadow Elementary School, a building owned by UMass.

"Stationary," he responded laconically.

Had Mr. Pooler been around five years ago when the classrooms were first purchased for $205,000 he probably would not now be so flippant.

Perhaps no single incident best captures the hubris of the pre-Catherine Sanderson Amherst School Committee, where the rubber stamp was routinely pressed into action, better than the portable classrooms fiasco.  Although warned on the floor of Town Meeting about declining enrollments at Mark's Meadow by longtime town meeting contrarian Nancy Gordon, the portable classrooms unanimously endorsed by the School Committee passed overwhelmingly.

In fact, at the time, School Committee Chair (and UMass School of Education Assistant Director Center for Education Policy) Andy Churchill stated:   "the School Committee needs to look hard at whether we need to add two or four modular classrooms, understanding that there is a financial component to be considered." So I guess it could have been (twice as) bad.

Just three years later, at Catherine Sanderson's bold urging, Mark's Meadow was closed and the portable classrooms, never actually put to use as classrooms serving students, lay fallow.

Now they are too expensive to move ($50,000 or more) and negotiations with UMass to purchase them seem to be going nowhere.

Yes, Ms. O'Keeffe should have banished Mr. Pooler to the woodshed for his dry sense of humor.  Or better yet, to our abandoned, useless, expensive, modular classrooms.


Anonymous 2.0 said...

I hope UMass charges the town for this, it's not UMass's responsibility to move this failed venture and it's occupying land.

Anonymous said...

Who is paying to insure this building? Some homeless person breaks in and, say, breaks a fingernail, the town gets sued.

Every building the town has is a liability, just like every vehicle the town has -- and the insurance rate probably reflects this.

Anonymous said...

Wow -- more winter shelter space?

Anonymous said...

I get your point, but I don't think that you are the only person in Amherst public life allowed to have a sense of humor.

There's something called gallows humor. It seems appropriate here, and I think that's what the official being unfairly excoriated by you intended.

LarryK said...

"Excoriated"? Yikes! You should see me when I really want to bring heat to bear.

Hell, I assume he has a sense of humor. Must have, since he was let go from his last job by a vindictive mayor--yet still holds the same position here in Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Remember who pushed for the portables???? Andy Churchill. He was a school committee member and that's where his kid went to school. Can you say conflict of interest??

LarryK said...

As did Alisa Brewer, who was on the School Committee at the time.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pooler does, indeed, have a sense of humor. And he's very good at his job, so I suspect he's busily trying to figure out how to make syrup out of sap.

Anonymous said...

why not move them over to the middle school to replace the ones they are getting rid of?

Ponziville's money changers said...

AMHERST - The Amherst School Committee on Tuesday approved a budget for the elementary schools that exceeds the guidelines set by the Finance Committee for the next fiscal year.

This $21.5 million spending plan represents a 3.9 percent increase over the current year's budget, said Superintendent Maria Geryk. And it is $218,200 more than a budget that would adhere to the 2.8 percent increase the Finance Committee recommended for all town departments, she said.

Geryk said she plans Thursday to ask the Finance Committee to recommend the higher figure rather than seeking more spending cuts.

The elementary budget has been reduced by $305,696 from the amount she first proposed, Geryk said. The reductions already made include one full-time resource teacher and two half-time positions.

"We haven't gotten all the way there, can we have additional support to get us there?" Geryk said she plans to ask the Finance Committee. "How they choose to appropriate these funds is not something I could answer. There are a lot of different strategies they could use."


What a dump.

Anonymous said...

Alisa's kids went to Narks Meadow as well-

Sort of like the school dept saying their salaries are in line with other communities-
Do you think they would admit they are being overpaid?

Our town needs to tighten its budget- Town and school employees get large annual pay increases and great health insurance coverage- increases many other residents do not receive in their work and can not afford to support.