GMUSD move forward with $20 million in facilities upgrades

CHESTER, Vt. – The Green Mountain Unified School District Board has decided to move forward with next steps for approximately $20 million worth of facility improvements for all three schools in the district, based on options presented by Energy Efficient Investments during a special meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Michael Davey from EEI provided four options that outlined recommended upgrades to Green Mountain Union High School, Chester-Andover Elementary School, and Cavendish Town Elementary School. Those options spanned from an “all-encompassing” option that resulted from their previous facilities energy audit, in the form of Option A with a $28 million dollar price tag; to Option D termed a “strictly energy” option focused on updating HVAC and electrical systems to replace failing equipment, and replacing it with “like kind” with a price tag of over $7 million dollars.

Option A is an all-encompassing option that provides new HVAC systems and windows, addresses safety code deficiencies, provides new finishes, alleviates space concerns, removes hazardous materials, includes a solar project, provides wish list items from faculty and staff. Other improvements include adding sprinkler systems, replacing the elevator, upgrading several non-ADA compliant features including lack of ADA-compliant bathrooms, ramp handrails, multi-level drinking fountains, and lack of access to the stage in the auditorium. Other recommended improvements include upgrading floors, kitchen equipment, and doors throughout.

Board Chairman Joe Fromberger suggested starting with Option B with a price tag of just over $18 million, which focused on the existing building but eliminated additions, parking lot repairs, added storage, the sprinkler systems, and solar project.

The board then embarked on a lengthy discussion outlining the merits of each option and with board members making suggestions for adding items from Option A, which included every recommendation.

Board member Dennis Reilly suggested that they select Option A for GMUHS, since it is in the most need of upgrades and has not had any major renovations since it was built in 1971, and that they go with Option D for both CAES and CTES.

The board then agreed to work from that standpoint, finetuning that basic platform to reach their final consensus, deleting one item from GMUHS Option A, and adding a few items to Option D for both CAES and CTES.

In the final agreement, the board agreed to move forward with: the fully comprehensive Option A for GMUHS minus the solar project on the roof; Option D for CAES with the addition of converting the oil tanks to propane, and adding pavement and bus drop off area modifications; and Option D for CTES with the addition of adding “ERV’s perimeter heat.” The total cost for all three schools totals $19,666,000 based on the estimates to date.

Documents outlining the specifics of all four options can be found on the TRSU website as part of the documents for the Oct. 25 meeting.

EEI will also investigate how many classrooms at CAES have an egress to the outside to address safety concerns.

Next steps for EEI include flushing out into greater details all the projects selected and returning with comprehensive details and final pricing, which should take several weeks. Davey expects that work to be completed by the second week of December.

Although financing for the project may include a possible bond, the board and Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Lauren Fierman were not willing to say that would have to be the case and will explore other options for funding.

Two Rivers Supervisory Union Facilities Director Todd Parah thanked the board for their work in moving the project forward. He said that if renovations were not made, they would be forced to spend money regardless to replace equipment that was on the cusp of failure, as well as continue to make necessary maintenance upgrades.

The next GMUSD meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. at GMUHS library.

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