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Mass.Schools Seek Money For Building Repairs

By Paul Tuthill


Springfield, MA – Massachusetts is looking to extend the useful life of older school buildings and at the same time make them more energy efficient. School districts across the state are lining up to get funding for the one time only program WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports .

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has 300 million dollars to spend on a program to replace roofs, windows and boilers in schools that are otherwise structurally sound. The executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, Katherine Craven says the grant program called the Green Repair Program is incentivizing school districts to act before buildings deteriorate to the point where they must be replaced
The bad news is the Green Repair Program has a limited budget 300 million dollars that came through the federal stimulus program. So when the money is gone, the program ends. Craven says funding has been approved so-far for about 100 projects in districts across the state, and dozens more applications are under review ..
Unlike the school building authority's traditional grant program, districts are eligible under the Green Repair Program to receive funding for more than one project at a time. The Springfield Public Schools have been approved for roof, window and boiler replacement projects at 22 buildings, according to the city's director of buildings management, Patrick Sullivan
The work will be done over the next two summers, so as not to disrupt school schedules.
Officials say the Green Building Program is another example of the turnaround that has occurred in the once troubled school construction program in Massachusetts. It had run up an 11 billion dollar debt that forced a four year long moratorium on new school building in the middle of the last decade.
The school building authority's executive director says the school building grant process has been reformed so that the state no longer promises money it does not have for projects it can not afford
A portion of the state's sales tax is dedicated to the school building authority, which Craven says has paid out a total of seven billion dollars for school construction projects over the last six years
Another reform resulted in reduced reimbursement rates to cities and towns for new school buildings.. A replacement high school project that had been on the drawing boards for years in Springfield was grandfathered so the state is covering 90 percent of the costs. The city's director of capital asset management, Rita Coppola-Wallace, says the 120 million dollar Putnam Vocational High School is on schedule to open in the fall of 2012
A 33 million dollar renovation of the Forest Park Middle School in Springfield, which is to start later this year, will be the last project in the entire state to receive a 90 percent reimbursement from the state's school building authority .


Reporting from Springfield, I'm Paul Tuthill WAMC News..