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State Official Pledges Funding To Repair Tornado Damaged Schools


    The Massachusetts State Treasurer during a visit to Springfield Wednesday committed to fund the rebuilding of two tornado damaged schools.  Special action by state officials means city taxpayers should be off the hook for any expenses.   WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

   Special legislation lifted a statutory cap on what the Massachusetts School Building Authority could reimburse Springfield for the costs to rebuild the two storm damaged schools.  State Treasurer Steven Grossman, who chairs the authority, said as a result the city will save millions of dollars.

   Under state law, the school building authority can not pay for more than 80percent of a school building project. But the special legislation, signed last week by Governor Patrick, eliminates the ceiling for schools damaged in a federally declared disaster that occurred between June 1st, 2011 and August 1st, 2012.

   Two Springfield elementary schools took direct hits from the tornado that devastated roughly a third of the city 14 months ago.  A wing of the Dryden School was destroyed. The 85 year old Brookings School was so badly damaged that officials concluded the best course was to replace it with a brand new building.  Modular classrooms are being used temporarily at both locations.

   Grossman, who viewed the schools just days after the storm hit said the school building authority remains committed to expediting repairs and minimizing Springfield’s financial exposure.

   City officials have estimated the repairs to the Dryden School will cost $14.4 million. Building a new Brookings School is put at $28 million.  Jack McCarthy, the executive director of the school building authority said because some costs will be covered by FEMA, its not possible to say how much the state’s share will come to.

   State Senator James Welch of Springfield sponsored the bill to lift the 80 percent reimbursement ceiling for the two tornado damaged schools.

   Springfield’s other State Senator, Gale Candaras, is credited with assuring  Welch’s amendment was kept in the final legislation that came out of a conference committee.  She wrote a letter  to the governor urging him to sign it.

   The Massachusetts School Building Authority was created six years ago to , in part, address run-a-way costs of school construction projects and reform the reimbursement process. One penny on the dollar of the state’s sales  tax goes to the authority.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.