The Public Building and Site Commission is still holding out hope it can replace aging boilers in Hawley School in 2013, although prospects for that are looking bleak.
But commission Chairman Robert Mitchell warned this week that the entire future of could change quickly if someone made a complaint that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
As of now, the project because there isn’t enough money in the town’s Capital Improvement Program budget to finance the $8 million-to-$12.6 million project, even if it is broken up into three annual phases.
The commission is hoping the project’s engineering consultants can redesign the project so the most vulnerable boilers could be replaced next summer while school is not in session. Otherwise, the project would be .
The old steam boilers are located in the school wing built in 1947.
"If a boiler fails this winter, there is no way to replace it," Mitchell said.
And because the steam system in that part of the building is not compatible with the hot water system in the rest of the school, a failure of those boiler could force the building to close in the middle of the school year.
Also looming over the matter is the fact that the oldest part of the building, built in 1921, does not comply with ADA requirements for wheelchair accessibility.
Correcting that would increase the cost of the project from $8 million to $12.6 million, or force the town to stop using the building until it is corrected.
"My experience is the feds are going to come down and make them do it. The first complaint that comes from a grandparent that ‘I can’t visit my grandchild’s classroom,’" Mitchell said.
Also, at an Aug. 20 meeting, members of the Board of Education refused to consider the plan for the school renovations presented by the commission, preferring instead to pursue an alternative that the Public Building and Site Commission reportedly didn’t even know about, and that Mitchell said wouldn’t meet state building code requirements.
The plan the Board of Education preferred includes a ventilation system that doesn’t provide any fresh air returns, which is something the state would not allow, Mitchell said Tuesday at a meeting of the commission.
Mitchell noted that Hawley School is a town-owned building, so, he said, the Board of Education ultimately doesn't have the authority to determine how the renovations are designed.
But, Mitchell said, the commission doesn’t want to renovate the school only to have the school board close it a year later because of declining enrollment. Whether closing Hawley was a possibility was not something the school board addressed at the Aug. 20 meeting, Mitchell said.