Bond for roof repairs OK’d

MONT VERNON – Years of moldy classrooms, ice dams and ceiling leaks so extensive that they closed school for a week led Mont Vernon School District voters to overwhelmingly approve a $600,000 bond for extensive repairs to the roof of the town’s elementary school.

The vote at Friday night’s annual meeting was 124-40, well over the two-thirds margin needed.

The project includes an estimated $160,000 to strengthen the roof trusses on older portions of the building. These structures don’t meet building codes put into effect for New Hampshire schools in the past few years, following the collapse of some roofs under heavy snow loads. Schools are not required to retroactively improve existing buildings to new codes.

“Nobody says we have to do this,” said School Board member Peter King during a presentation of the bond proposal in the gym of the Mont Vernon Village School. “We felt the fact that some of the roofing in this structure only meets 65 percent of today’s code . . . is something that needs to be put before the voters.”

Another $145,000 of the proposal would go toward putting new asphalt shingles on the roof, part of which is currently covered by a tarpaulin due to the extensive leaks that shut the school a week before Christmas vacation.

Also included is about $65,000 for work to reduce heat in the attic, which can contribute to the formation of ice on the roof, plus $109,000 to upgrade heating and ventilation systems. About $57,000 are earmarked for other, miscellaneous fixes such as drainage.

“This is an entire project that needs to be done from Point A to Point Z,” said King. “(The leaking roof) was a symptom of a bunch of problems.”

Although the size of the bond is hefty by Mont Vernon standards, the major point of discussion during the meeting was not the total, but whether Hutter Construction of New Ipswich would be allowed to bid on the work. Hutter built an addition to the school in 2000, a portion of which leaked this winter, and several people argued that they should not be encouraged to work on the school again.

School Board members refused to rule out giving any bid to Hutter, which is a major contractor of school projects in New Hampshire, but indicated that concerns expressed by residents would lead them to examine any Hutter bids with caution.

The two other major issues of the meeting were still under discussion at press time:

– A proposed new teacher contract, which would raise costs for the 22 members of the Mont Vernon Education Association union by 6.1 percent, or $58,571, to $1.02 million. Nearly half of that increase would come in higher health-insurance expenses.

– A $3.27 million operating budget, less than half of one percent higher than the current budget. The proposal would reduce the number of second-grade teachers from two to one, due to a dip in enrollment, but probably increase kindergarten teachers or aides due to an expected surge in entering 5-year-olds.

One other small, but telling, issue was disposed of early.

Moderator Peter Hayden said some people had expressed concern that Mont Vernon was growing too big to continue with the honor-system method of voting at annual meetings. Currently, anybody sitting in the crowd can raise their hand during a show-of-hands vote; it is assumed that people are honest and only registered Mont Vernon voters will participate.

The alternative, Hayden said, would be to require people to sign in with the checklist supervisor before the meeting began to receive special cards that would be shown during voting. This would prevent any cheating but slow things down, and Hayden wondered if people thought it was necessary.

By an overwhelming show of hands, the meeting voted that the honor system is still good enough for Mont Vernon.