Sunday Notes – Need to Inspect Schools, Better Maintenance and not voting to fund LHS project

Citizens deserve a better answer than “creative engineering “

Is City Inspecting EVERY SCHOOL?

We know from the numerous pictures about the current condition of LHS that work needs to be done there. What about the other 22 schools?

Is the City doing Building, Electrical, Plumbing and Sanitary Code Inspections in every school building they own and are suppose to maintain to make sure they are safe and up to code for all our students?

If NOT, shouldn’t they be? After all the post about the High School conditions, I had hoped (foolishly it seems) that a School Committee member somewhere before the end of the year, would have made a motion asking the Mayor to request a full inspection at every school with a copy of the findings submitted to the School Committee at the first August meeting with a list of items being addressed.

If that isn’t being done, based on what we know about the High School, shouldn’t we be proactive and have this done at every school building? Why do we wait for the winter to check out the conditions of the boiler? We need to get these buildings squared away before the school year.

Lowell has always had issues with maintenance and I’ll give the Murphy Administration credit for doing a better job than some previous Manager’s but where is the leadership from the School Committee demanding that these inspections and fixes are done?

Where is the update on the supposed repairs going on at LHS? The Manager made it sound like they are concentrating on the roof. What is the plan for the classrooms and water issues? What is being addressed and when will it be done.

If the city can’t find $250,000 to fix the structural deficit in the school budget, where are we finding money for repairs to the current High School and how much money is needed to bring this building up to safe usage?

Parents deserve an answer before the start of school!!!!

Is it time to consider or at least look at Outsourcing?
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein

I heard the City Manager say he could not get a “handyman” position added to the budget to do minor repairs at LHS (change ceiling tile, fix door knob, change light bulbs etc.) maybe it is time that we look at exactly what “custodians” can do and look at changing some job titles or maybe outsourcing the cleaning and repairing of the school buildings. Especially considering the amount of money the School Dept. pays for custodians.

According to the School budget, we have 23 schools and the Administrative offices and 93 custodians at a cost of $4,291,625 plus another $175,000 in Overtime funding.

Of that $4,291,625 the School Dept. charges to the Food Service Revolving Account $661,112 for what is termed the “cleaning of the kitchens and dining rooms”.

Maybe we should change the job title to maintenance person for about 25 of the existing custodians and assign one to EVERY School. A new Job description should allow the position to include basic repair and maintenance. If for any reason we can’t get that done then maybe it’s time to follow the Chelmsford module and hire 1 school building custodian during the day (probably 3-4 for the High School) and then outsource not just the cleaning but more importantly the maintenance of these buildings to a variety of private businesses to clean and make needed repairs.

I’m guessing we could do this for under the $4.4 million we spend now. We need to get a better finished product. No offense to the custodians, many of who feel constrained and cannot make easy repairs even when they want to but we cannot allow all our other schools to end up like the present high school. We know that we have maintenance issues yet the School Committee, City Council and Manager continue to do the same things over and over.

If we continue to do exactly what we have done for years with regard to custodians and maintenance, we will see the same results in all our schools that we have seen at the High School. Why are we willing to allow all our other schools to end up in the same state? I’m not willing to watch all are schools continue to deteriorate.

It is time we explore alternatives and run this like a business with the taxpayers in the role of the shareholders. We need to maintain the buildings and make fixes quicker and better and if doing it the way we have been results in buildings ending up like the present High School, why are we allowing that to continue?

Some Good News for Belvidere Residents
Rumors are FALSE! Ted Panos has NOT bought a house in Belvidere (at least not yet)!

What if “New City Council” doesn’t approve Funding Cawley Site?

Not that I’m wishing for this and I’m hoping it never comes to this, but Teddy asked the Manager who kind of hemmed and hawed on his response so I went to the MSBA Site (not to City Lawyer) for the real answer:(Bold mine)

Policy Statement regarding the impact on MSBA funding if a City, Town or Regional School District fails to vote to appropriate funding for the proposed project as defined in the Project Scope and Budget Agreement, within the deadlines established by the MSBA

The Project Scope and Budget Agreement, as approved by the MSBA’s Board of Directors, defines the scope, cost and schedule of the agreed upon proposed project, and any variances from this Agreement require the written approval of the MSBA and may require an additional Board vote. Pursuant to the MSBA’s regulations, a city, town or regional school district that has been approved by the Board for a proposed project has 120 days from the date of the Board’s approval to obtain and certify local approval of an appropriation to fully fund the proposed project and all other local votes or approvals showing acceptance of the cost, site, type, scope and timeline for the proposed project.

The MSBA appreciates the challenges that school districts face, but the MSBA’s regulations specifically include this 120-day deadline for a local appropriation to ensure that the MSBA’s capital program funds are targeted toward projects and school districts that are ready and able to make the financial commitment and move forward in a timely manner.

Given the overwhelming capital needs of school districts across the Commonwealth and the MSBA’s limited capital program funds, the MSBA cannot indefinitely tie up funds allocated for a project that lacks local support.

In the event that a school district fails to approve funding for a proposed project within the 120-day deadline, by no later than 10 business days following the failed vote, the school district must submit to the MSBA a plan that: (1) presents the vote results, (2)explains the school district’s understanding of the reason(s) for the failed vote, and (3)sets forth the school district’s plan to remedy the failed vote and a suggested timeline for such a remedy.

The MSBA will review the plan and determine whether it can continue to set aside MSBA funds for the proposed project. However,a failed local vote likely will result in the school district being required to submit a new Statement of Interest to the MSBA and await an invitation from the MSBA to enter the Eligibility Period phase of the MSBA’s process.

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