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Buildings and Grounds Committee continues planning despite call to stop

August 24, 2010
ALTON — The Alton Buildings and Grounds Committee moved forward with construction plans Thursday evening in the shadow of a contentious budget committee meeting that occurred the night before.

In the budget committee meeting, Alton Budget Committee member Barbara Howard questioned the purpose of the buildings and grounds committee in light of a statewide construction ban that is in effect until 2012.

Despite Howard's proposition, the buildings and grounds committee continued to develop its plans for a number of major improvements to Alton Central School.

"To stop would not benefit anyone," said a defiant Jeff St. Cyr, chairman of the Alton School Board and buildings and grounds committee member.

Most of the hour-long meeting was spent discussing the new library and media room addition. The major point of debate was whether the new structure should be square or round.

Chip Krause, an architect with CMK Architects, said the cost of a round or a square structure would be roughly equal. But, he said, the round structure would be more aesthetically pleasing and would be a more efficient use of space.

However, his opinion did not sway some members of the committee.

"I am 100 percent against a round structure," said committee member Steve Parker. "But I'm just one vote."

The most important component of the addition is its ability to provide an engaging learning space for students, according to Alton School District Superintendent Kathy Holt. She said student attention is largely dependent on the amount of natural light in the classroom.

Holt said the school is eligible for certain federal construction grants if the structure meets certain natural light and energy efficiency requirements.

A motion was made to approve the conditional construction of the addition that promoted "student learning, fiscal conservatism, and energy efficiency."

The motion was carried with seven in favor to two opposed. The proposal will go to the Alton School Board for approval.

Keith Dube reviewed the plans discussed at the construction subcommittee.

The first proposed project was the replacement of an "extremely poorly built" section of the school where the fourth grade currently attends class. Dube said this section is "completely unsafe" after significant snowfall because it is covered by a weak flat roof without an internal drainage system.

"I'm uncomfortable with my own son going into the fourth grade," said Dube. "He won't go in (to school) on a snowy day."

The second proposed project was the construction of a new gymnasium to accommodate a larger student body. The gym will not have a stage and will be "only a gym."

With the construction of a new athletic space, the old gymnasium will be converted to a "caf-o-gym," according to Dube. The "caf-o-gym" will have a larger capacity than the current cafeteria, and will allow the school to have only two lunch periods instead of four.

"Kids shouldn't have to eat at 10:30 or 1:30," he said. "It screws up their eating schedule."

Dube also supported the construction of a one million dollar geo-thermal heating system. He said it was the "best bang for the buck" and would pay for itself over time. He said that in 13 years, the heating cost of the school would drop 90 percent if this new system were to be installed.

He also said the new system would provide central air conditioning for the school.

The portable classrooms at Alton Central School are getting old, according to Dube. He said the school will have to replace them in a year or two.

The committee agreed the reason for the portables' short lifespan was the harsh New Hampshire winter weather.

"Florida uses them very differently," said Holt.

Dube reviewed other potential improvements to the school, including a gazebo for students waiting for a ride and an expanded rear parking lot. He also mentioned the nearly finished improvements to the school, which include a new sprinkler system, fresh air handling system, and swipe card locks.

Other business

St. Cyr gave a recap of the budget committee hearing for the buildings and grounds members who had missed it the night before.

Holt said she was volunteering her time at the buildings and grounds committee in order to save the town money.

The committee praised the members who placed informational signs about recent school improvements around Alton for last Saturday's Old Home Day.

The scheduling of the next meeting was tabled until after school is in session.

Weston Sager can be reached at 569-3126 or wsager@salmonpress.com

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