Middle school unification to be decided at Town Meeting

Sept. 29, 2016 | Chris Goudreau

WILBRAHAM – Resolution to the middle school unification issue rests on the decision of voters at the upcoming Oct. 24 Special Town Meeting.

If approved, the amendment to the regional agreement would allow Hampden students at Thornton W. Burgess Middle School (TWB) to attend Wilbraham Middle School (WMS).

Article 3 reads, “Students in grades six through eight may be assigned to the unified middle school located in Wilbraham, irrespective of their residence, during the school years beginning in 2017 and ending in 2022, subject to extension as may be allowed in this agreement or through further amendment of this agreement.”

Board of Selectmen Chair Susan Bunnell, who is also a member of the Middle School Task Force told Reminder Publications Wilbraham and Hampden would host their respective Special Town Meetings on the same date, both starting at 7 p.m.

She added the current regional agreement between the neighboring communities prohibits students from crossing town lines to attend school prior to attending Minnechaug Regional High School.

Bunnell said she hopes and expects the amendment to pass in Wilbraham.

When asked if she was concerned about Hampden residents shooting down the amendment, she replied, “I’ve personally been engaged with a number of people who are in favor of the unification – parents of kids in the system currently, and others. I’m certainly hopeful that it will pass in both towns.”

The article also includes additional paragraphs that details how capital expenditures would be handled if TWB students were to move to Wilbraham Middle School, Bunnell said.

“Those specify that in the event of any capital repairs occurring while the Hampden students are in the building, Hampden’s obligation to pay a portion of those costs would be limited to the portion share adjusted for the life expectancy of the improvement, their percentage of the share of regional cost based on how many kids are in the district, and then for whatever number of years their kids are in the building,” she explained.

As an example, she said if a building improvement project at WMS costs $10,000 annually over a 20-year period, Hampden would only have to pay $2,500 of that annual cost only during the years Hampden students attend the school.

“The roof has been excluded completely,” she added. “If anything is required for the roof that will be a Wilbraham expense alone.”

Bunnell said she’s uncertain if any additional large improvement projects would take place at WMS or TWB during the next five years, after which the amendment would expire if no other action were taken.

Article 2 calls for a vote to transfer $50,000 from the town’s Retained Earnings available funds to replace a backup generator for the River Road Pump station. The article states the existing generator is more than 40 years old, has ceased to function, and replacement parts are unavailable. The generator would cost $35,000 and delivery and installation would be $15,000.

Article 1 of the warrant calls for a zoning bylaw amendment to delete the existing definition of accessory building or structure and to replace it with a new one, which reads, “A building or structure that is customarily incidental and subordinate to a lawful principal building and/or principal use, and which is located on the same lot or an adjoining lot under the same ownership and is not attached to the principal building by any covered or roofed structure.”

This article requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass and was recommended by the Planning Board.

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