|Williamstown Elementary Signs Lease With Youth Center|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
10:30PM / Wednesday, February 08, 2012
|After nearly two years of work, the Elementary School Committee and the Youth Center put inked a lease agreement for the new center.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The new Youth Center set to be built on Elementary School land took a "momentous step" Wednesday night when both school and center officials signed a lease for the next 100 years.
Youth Center officials Paul Jennings and David Rempell felt the signing of the lease was such a big step that they asked a photographer to document the occasion for a book the center is planning on making about the project.
The lease is one of the final steps before the center breaks ground on March 15. With the help of Town Manager Peter Fohlin and attorneys, the two sides reached an agreement that center officials approved on Monday and school officials on Wednesday.
"I feel this is a momentous occasion," Youth Center Executive Director David Rempell said. "We are all set to break ground next month."
The lease called for an initial deposit of $50,000 into a maintenance fund as well as a $250,000 temporary fund during construction. Rempell gave the School Committee a bank receipt showing that those deposits were made Wednesday morning.
The center has been in the works for a long time. It was originally scheduled to break ground in 2010 but was delayed a few times - once because of debate over the playground and another time to give architects more time to plan.
Now, the center is full steam ahead on the project that is expected to be completed on Oct. 1 with occupancy on Oct. 31.
"This really is quite a historic partnership," Youth Center President Paul Jennings said.
Wednesday was the second review of the lease and School Committee members had no follow up questions from their first review.
In other news, the school's budget process is off to a much better start than it was at this time last year. According to David Donoghue of The Management Solution, the company hired to manage the school's finance reports, officials just need to find ways to close a $142,000 gap compared to last year when the school faced a $395,000 gap.
"Even though it is a shortfall, it's a manageable shortfall," Donoghue said.
The 2013 budget is expected to see a 2 percent increase in funding from the town. However, about $30,000 in grant money has expired, utilities are expected to rise about 8 percent and salaries and other compensation is expected to rise 2 percent. Health insurance is expected to decrease only slightly.
Despite the state budget having an increase in education funding, Williamstown will receive level funding because the taxpayers already support the school higher than the baseline level. The extra education money is instead going to schools that operate at the foundation level.
The $142,000 gap will likely be filled with some school choice funds and no staff members are expected to be laid off, Superintendent of Schools Rose Ellis said. The school is expected to use less school choice funds to bridge that gap than it did last year.
Williamstown Youth Center Lease