Continued Opposition to Minuteman Project… June 24, 2015

By Nancy Arsenault
The Board of Selectmen met Tuesday night to hear status updates on some long standing projects to close out the fiscal year.
Minuteman Regional School Committee Representative and Stow resident Alice Deluca, spoke to the Board of the frustrations she and her colleagues are feeling after pursuing a renovation or new building project for Minuteman High School for well over five years, with still no resolution. According to that District agreement, all 16 member towns must agree to the selected building option – a  new school project chosen by the school building committee – but without that unanimous vote, the project cannot go forward.

Deluca said that 4-6 towns are not supportive and in fact, a few of them would like to remove themselves from the District roster. This particular move also requires a unanimous vote of all members, a vote Deluca said is not forthcoming.

The lack of unanimous support for any of these directions threatens to stall the project in such a way that 40% reimbursement funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority could disappear if a consensus is not available by the end of June 2016. Deluca said the option for state funding will be withdrawn at that point, approximately five years after MSBA accepted the school’s intention to rebuild, and also providing a six month extension in hopes they could win district approval.

Deluca said that if the towns fail to support a new project, partially funded by the state, the member towns will still be responsible for addressing the building structural and space issues, as those problems will only worsen.  She said that towns could likely see continual capital project requests every year for decades in order to address all that the proposed new project would remedy.  Those cost of separate projects would be fully borne by the member towns with no state financial contribution.
Selectman Tom Ryan said that if towns are not willing to vote for a project that includes 40% state funding, they most likely will not pay for projects where the voter must foot the entire bill. While Stow has historically been supportive of the financial requests made by Minuteman, Ryan said, “I think Minuteman is a great school and does a great job, but it just costs too much per student.” He alluded to the fact that his daughter’s college tuition payment is less than the cost per year for a student at Minuteman. “I think you have to make people understand the costs,” he said.

Town Administrator Bill Wrigley said that, while Stow is supportive of the future vision, perhaps the school committee’s best efforts could be spent working with the towns least satisfied, and trying to amend the building project to become more acceptable to them.

Deluca said votes must be collected from each member town by Spring Town Meeting 2016, at the latest, in order to know if the project can proceed before MSBA funding is lost.
Zoning Enforcement and New Construction
Town Administrator Bill Wrigley reminded the Board that the Zoning Board of Appeals will be hearing appeal requests from Robert Collings on July 6. Collings is looking to have the ZBA reverse the Town’s decision to have Zoning Enforcement Officer Craig Martin issue a cease and desist order prohibiting any aircraft take offs and landings from his Barton Road property.  Town officials and Martin believe these activities to be in violation of the zoning bylaws, despite the fact that these flights have taken place for decades.

Wrigley said Stow resident Bob Albright will also appear at the same ZBA meeting, having filed a similar appeal to a cease and desist order issued to him that prohibits the take-off and landing of ultralight crafts from his Crow Island airfield.  Both men feel that the aviation activity at their airfields is not in violation of zoning and, in fact, is protected by Mass Aeronautical statute which supersedes local zoning.

Wrigley also said that construction on the new fire station and community center, to be located at the former Pompositticutt School, will be starting in July and is expected to take about a year before the building is ready for occupancy.  The well has already been drilled, and with no unseen or unexpected issues underground, Wrigley expects the project to advance quickly.