Springfield residents question school parking lot
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | March 05,2013
Len Emery photo
Members of Green Mountain Boy Scouts Troop 252 lead the Pledge of Allegiance on Monday night at the Springfield town meeting.
SPRINGFIELD — Voters had few questions about proposed town and school budgets, but more questions were about a new parking lot at Union Street School at Springfield town meeting Monday night.
The lack of economic development and whether spending more than $200,000 on a new parking lot at Union Street School was a wise move generated the most discussion.
Both budgets will be decided by voters today.
Voters began their town meeting with a Pledge of Allegiance, led by Troop 252 of the Green Mountain Council. The Boy Scouts stayed and watched the town meeting for more than an hour as their elders debated the bread and butter of budgets — paving roads, fixing roofs and staffing.
Interim Superintendent Zach McLaughlin said the Union Street School parking construction project wasn’t just about parking, but said it was also about creating a more secure entrance to the school.
Under the proposal, the school district would buy a house immediately in front of the school, tear it down and create new parking spaces.
Several people spoke in favor of the project — saying the school was in a difficult part of town and the safety of schoolchildren was more important.
George McNaughton said the School Board was “courageous” to propose the project — which would be funded by money left over from the 2009 school construction bond.
Steve Hier, the school district’s finance director, said the use of the left over money from the elementary school renovation bond of $231,000 for the Union Street project would represent a penny and a half on the tax rate.
About 150 people attended the meeting, but there were very few decisions made at the meeting — the bulk of decisions will be made in the voting booth today during all-day Australian balloting at Riverside Middle School.
Hier said that much of the leftover money from the bond was a result of higher than expected state reimbursement on the new wood chip boiler installed at the Elm Hill School. He said as a result, the school received 90 percent reimbursement, or $217,000.
One resident questioned the wisdom of using the leftover bond money for a handful of parking spaces, when the money could be used to pay down the school bond.
Alan Lockwood, a perennial at town meeting, kicked off the questioning, bemoaning the lack of new business in town.
Town Manager Robert Forguites admitted that the only new business in town was the new Black River Produce in the former Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. building in North Springfield, that is being converted to a meat processing facility.
Forguites said the $10 million town budget was up $471,000, which would need a 3.07 percent tax increase.
On the school budget side, School Board Chairman Scott Adnams said that the $27.7 million school budget was up 2.6 percent, which he said was half of the state average school budget increase.