Wilton won't expand Rideout school

WILTON – There will be no expansion of Florence Rideout Elementary School this year, but many of the required life safety issues will be addressed.

Impassioned pleas by the Building Committee and several parents failed to persuade even a simple majority of the 427 voters at the annual School District meeting Thursday. The addition/renovation package failed, 222 to 205. A two-thirds majority was required for passage. Last year’s proposal for a larger addition failed by 21 votes.

Following the announcement of the vote, voters added $297,832 to the budget for repairs and $4,000 to reinstate an environmental program.

The total addition is the maximum amount allowed under the “10 percent rule.” Voters in towns that operate under the Municipal Budget Act can add no more than 10 percent of the total recommended by the Budget Committee.

The committee didn’t recommend the bond issue, but the bond issue would have overridden that 10 percent.

In the end, voters said it was too much money in a poor economy. Whether the state would continue to fund 40 percent of the costs was cited as uncertain, although officials said the state had never reneged on its obligations.

Adding to the budget required several amendments.

The first, to add $300,000 for repairs, passed.

Board member Joyce Fisk then moved to add $4,000 for the environmental program, which also passed. Budget Committee members said that pushed the total over the 10 percent limit. Calculations determined the maximum that could be added, and the $300,000 amendment was reduced to $297,832.

Board Chairman Gilbert Hargrove, in answer to questions, said the state fire marshal and the health inspector had visited the school during the last month. He read a list of recommendations that totaled about $400,000.

Not all issues “need to be addressed today,” he said, and officials will work with the school to set a list of priorities and a timetable to meet them.

Among the problems cited were the sprinkler system, which needs to be upgraded; fire-suppression systems in the kitchen; covering ductwork in the 1895 building; adding steel doors; and upgrading electrical panels.

Questions were also raised about improving the security at the school, which has several unsecured entrances.

In other action, voters approved an article for $45,000 to replace a failing boiler, approved a one-year contract with support staff with added costs of $6,397, and adding $50,000 to the maintenance fund from an undesignated fund balance on June 30, if it’s available.

It was noted that, because of the consolidation of school districts in Wilton and Lyndeborough, this was the last meeting of the Wilton School District. Retiring board member Edward Popek was honored for his service and his efforts on behalf of the expansion of the school.