The White River Valley Herald

RSUD Fears Condition of School Building Could Impact Sale

The Rochester-Stockbridge Unified School Board held a special meeting Tuesday evening, May 24, via Google Meet.

The board got an EEI Services update on HVAC and heating projects in Rochester and Stockbridge and discussed possible action.

Amy Wildt summed up the recent subcommittee meeting about the immediate needs for the Rochester boiler. She stated that the sub-committee agreed that, due to a tight timeline, they recommend that the distruct pay to have the current boiler replaced. This would afford the board more time to determine what kind of work is needed, as well as funding options.

Supt. Jamie Kinnarney stated that he and Lyall Smith are working together to look at grant funding for all the schools, which may help pay for wood pellet boilers. He also described a three-phase plan for work staggered over the next several years.

The RSUD Board voted to instruct the administration to go ahead with repair of the existing boiler in Rochester.

Vic Ribaudo summarized what the Rochester High School Repurposing Committee recently learned about what would need to be done for an environmental assessment before the town would consider purchasing the building.

• Phase 1: National Environmental Protection Act Survey. This would take a couple of months and primarily a look at documentation of the site. They would look back at what may be contaminating the site.

• Phase 2: Brownfields Reuse and Environmental Liability Limitation. This process would have two parts. A consultant looks for where to test and then they test.

• Phase 3: Plan for Improvement. This is where contractors plan for removing contaminants and the costs of doing so.

Ribaudo stated that this process would take at least nine months to complete. Should the process reveal issues the buyer (the town) doesn’t want to contend with, they could back out leaving the owner (the school) liable.

Chair Ethan Bowen noted that since the school may be liable for dealing with the contaminants as a result of starting this process, they definitely should consult legal counsel. He also stated his appreciation for Meagher, Ribaudo, and the rest of the committee’s detailed work on this matter.

Meagher stated that an environmental impact study would be required for demolition, as well. He also noted that he wasn’t sure choosing to stop maintaining the building was a legal option.

Bowen stated that, for the record, these avenues (demolition, no longer maintaining the building) are not brought up as preferences, and are only noted for the purpose of exploring all possible options.

Ribaudo urged the board to also discuss this process with Sarah Wraight of Two Rivers.

Kinnarney asked for clarification about the purpose of the impact study, stating that he was under the impression its purpose was to help the town explore funding opportunities.

Ribaudo said he felt it is important to get the confidence of the voters. He noted that some selectboard members were concerned about contamination making the building not worth it.

Meagher noted that only Phase 1 would be required before seeking federal funds for work on the building. He also pointed out that some of the same work may be necessary when working on the elementary building.

Meagher requested that this appear on the agenda at their next meeting.

Smith cautioned the board to do the testing before getting too worried. He noted that the asbestos is manageable, the oil tank is a common issue, and that it was important not to jump to conclusions before seeing testing results.

The above is a summary of draft minutes.