Sandwich School Superintendent Cheers Pool Vote

040313-A sign on a baracade just inside the pool entrance alerts visitors to the fact that the pool area is closed.
DON PARKINSON/ENTERPRISE - 040313-A sign on a baracade just inside the pool entrance alerts visitors to the fact that the pool area is closed.

During Wednesday night’s school committee meeting, superintendent of schools C. Richard Canfield celebrated the fact that residents will have a chance to vote to fix the swimming pool at the high school.

Selectmen voted 4-1 the night before to place a $980,000 capital outlay exclusion on the warrant of a Special Town Meeting set for November 18.

The capital outlay will also be presented to voters at the November 21 special town election. The measure must win approval at both Town Meeting and the polls.

Dr. Canfield took time during the school committee meeting to urge the public to get out and vote. "We've got the right to vote and now we need to get out there and exercise that right for this issue," he said.

When selectmen met Tuesday to decide whether to forward the pool expenditure to voters, they also voted voted 4-1 to place a $650,000 capital outlay exclusion on the Special Town Meeting warrant for repairs and renovations to the high school’s “A” wing.

Like the pool proposal, the expenditure must win approval at both Town Meeting and the polls.

Taxpayers would pay for each approved outlay in a single year. No interest would be paid. Following the expenditure, the outlay would disappear from the town’s property tax levy.

At present, the average residential property owner in Sandwich pays more than $4,700 in basic annual town property taxes, not including water district taxes and the 3 percent Community Preservation Act surtax.

Town manager George H. Dunham estimated the onetime cost of the pool repairs at $92 for the average valued home in Sandwich of $344,000.

Mr. Dunham estimated the onetime cost of the “A” wing repairs at $61 for the average valued home.

Combined, the increases would be $153.

Pool Closed Since February

The swimming pool has been closed since February, when a leak was discovered.

Even before the pool sprung a leak (which proved difficult to locate), the 8,000-square-foot room enclosing the pool was facing long-term humidity and ventilation problems.

The school contracted with a Taunton engineering firm, C.A. Crowley Engineering, Inc., to find a solution to the humidity and ventilation problems. Earlier this month, the firm proposed two fixes, one priced at about $662,000 and the other at about $857,000.

In response to a question from the school, Crowley said the initially more expensive option would pay for itself through energy savings in 5.36 years, a quicker payback than the initially less expensive option.

Mr. Dunham placed the overall cost of the initially more expensive option at $980,000, which includes $35,000 for grouting and structural pool repairs, and 10 percent in anticipated soft costs, such as architectural financing and legal fees.

Seeing the Town Meeting vote as a referendum on whether the town should continue to have an indoor pool, selectmen chairman James W. Pierce said he favored the initially more expensive option, given its faster payback.

Selectman Susan R. James moved and Selectman John G. Kennan Jr. seconded a proposal to place that option before the voters.

Selectman Frank Pannorfi opposed the proposal. Of the capital needs facing Sandwich, Mr. Pannorfi said, the pool would rank far down the list.

He said the selectmen ran the risk of not being able to garner taxpayer backing for more important capital projects if they supported the pool repairs. Mr. Pannorfi also reminded the group of the failure of a proposed public safety complex to gain voter approval this past spring.

Calls for Alternative Funding Approach

If the pool needs repairs, he said, the school committee and administration should fund them on their own. He said the school could use school choice funds to pay for the repairs.

Ms. James said she appreciated the value of long-term capital planning, but said the pool repairs were unexpected. Assets can decline, she said, if they are not kept up.

A member of the finance committee who was attending the selectmen’s meeting, Anne B. Dessertine, asked Mr. Pannorfi why he would not vote to put the question before the voters.

“If they want it, they will vote yes,” Ms. Dessertine said. “If they don’t want it, they can vote it down.”

Mr. Pannorfi said he was elected to analyze questions to find the best option. To pass the buck to the voters and not exercise his judgment, he said, would be cowardly.

The board then voted 4-1, with Mr. Pannorfi dissenting, to place the pool funding question before Town Meeting.
Earlier in the evening, the board had voted 4-1 to place the “A” wing repairs before Town Meeting.

The work is intended to repair faulty windowsills in the wing and prepare the section for the arrival of 7th- and 8th-grade students next September to attend a newly created Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy.

This time it was Ms. James who voted against the spending plan. She said the work should be funded as a longer-term debt exclusion than a one-year capital outlay exclusion.

State law required a two-thirds positive vote from the selectmen attending the meeting to place either capital outlay before Town Meeting.

Mr. Dunham said that effectively meant that four votes were needed to move either proposal forward. A 3-2 selectmen’s vote on an outlay would have prevented that measure from going before Town Meeting.

Reporter Patricia Peal also contributed to this article.

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