The City Council made the right move in granting the balance of a $25 million approved by voters in 2006 that will be used to replace the heating system and install air exchangers at Veterans Memorial Junior High School among a list of other less costly school renovations.
The balance is just over $4 million and the School Committee’s plan on how to use it came under intense scrutiny raising the question whether the city is dumping resources into an aging school system when it should be looking to build new schools. That wasn’t the only issue to entangling release of the funds.
When teachers complained of Vets’ finicky heating and stale air, they were not alone in questioning why schools moved ahead last summer with glamorous improvements to the auditoriums and entries at Pilgrim and Vets instead of putting the money into essentials like heating and classrooms.
Ed Ladouceur, chair of council finance committee, dove into the details of those improvements, how they had been selected and cost overruns. When schools mapped out improvements for this summer, Ladouceur resigned from the panel claiming schools had made up their minds and the outcome had been determined.
The one card the council had was to deny release of the funds or reduce them. There was an effort to scrap the balance of the bond even though voters gave it their blessing eight years ago. Our guess had the measure passed it would have been contested in the courts.
Thankfully, reason prevailed. The schools have the funds to move ahead with the improvements.
But we hope the schools also recognize where they failed in presenting this spending package.
Ladouceur is not alone in looking to justify municipal expenditures. A contractor, Ladouceur has made a successful business looking at every component going into a project and questioning how it might be accomplished efficiently. He is treating schools, and for that matter city expenditures, with the same intense scrutiny.
Schools would do well to keep him informed every step of the way. Not only may they recruit an ally, but save the taxpayers some money, which we can use.