Sunderland seeks meeting on Frontier Regional capital spending
SUNDERLAND — The selectmen have requested another meeting with Frontier Regional School leaders before they consider holding a special town meeting for the school’s controversial capital projects.
With less than a month before her retirement, Superintendent Regina Nash requested selectmen in Sunderland and Deerfield to have special town meetings to ask residents to reconsider the $133,250 in capital projects for next year.
At the annual meetings, Deerfield approved $14,803 in safety and security capital requests for the school. Sunderland approved $17,759 for its share of the $67,500 school building safety and security upgrades.
The two towns declined to pay for their requested portion of the $5,750 for electrical improvements, $30,000 each for a maintenance pickup and a student transport van. Their counterparts in Conway and Whately voted to pay the full costs.
Nash suggested adding a school article onto a possible special meeting in September scheduled to consider starting a south county regional EMS system. Without that, Sunderland selectmen may not ask residents to vote on the articles a second time.
“We have a high bar for holding special town meetings,” said selectmen’s Chairman Scott Bergeron.
Selectman Tom Fydenkevez said he’d expect the school leaders to discuss the projects again or he wouldn’t support a special town meeting for a van, electrical service for the maintenance garage and security improvements.
There continues to be a difference of opinion on whether the towns are obligated by the regional agreement to pay for the capital projects.
Sunderland maintains that the projects are optional, separate from the annual operating budget.
“We’ve been counseled it doesn’t fall under the budget,” said Town Administrator Margaret Nartowicz.
Nash, on the other hand, contends that the capital projects are supplemental budget items included within the $9.7 million operating budget.
“We called them capital improvements. They’re not capital improvements. What these are are supplemental budget items,” Nash said recently.
Nash said the projects were incorrectly presented during the budget season as capital items.
“I have a problem,” said Fydenkevez. “It’s been called supplemental budget. At school committee meetings, it’s been discussed as capital. It wasn’t discussed or presented (as a supplemental budget.)”