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Billerica Town Meeting Approves School Repairs

October 3, 2018

BILLERICA -- New floors. New seats. New locks.

Town meeting representatives approved all of these projects in a 167-5 vote for $1.4 million in repairs to school buildings funded by free cash during the first night of the Fall Town Meeting Tuesday.

“I think it’s important to show the work that we do to make sure our schools are up-to-date,” said Superintendent of Schools Tim Piwowar.

The bulk of this sum, $470,000 will go to the abatement and replacement of worn asbestos floors in Locke Middle School, Kennedy Elementary School and Dutile Elementary School, according to Piwowar.

“Most of our schools were built between the mid-60s and mid-70s and there’s a whole lot of asbestos flooring,” he said.

The article also approves $300,000 for installing a system that would allow teachers to lock classrooms from the inside.

Currently only rooms in Billerica Memorial High School and Parker Elementary School can be locked from the inside. Piwowar said in this time of heightened awareness of school safety it’s important to update these systems.

When asked by a Town Meeting representative whether students at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School could do this work to save money, Piwowar said the project was too large for a co-op project. The listed projects either do not qualify or are too small to benefit from grants from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, he said.

Other projects funded by the $1.4 million include: replacing asbestos ceiling tiles at Dutile, Hajjar and Kennedy; window hardware replacement at Ditson; resurfacing the outdoor track at Marshall; installing new lockers at Marshall; replacing existing lighting and adding exterior lighting throughout the district; a partial roof overlay at Dutile; and seat replacement in a lecture hall at Marshall.

In other business:

* Following some debate over the safety of the intersection and need for the project, Town Meeting representatives approved $400,000 from free cash for the installation of traffic signals at the intersection of Whipple Road and Andover Road. The article was passed 156-15.

* Representatives approved $50,000 for a sidewalk management plan. This plan will mark sidewalks for repair and find areas for sidewalk expansion based on proximity to schools, transit and pedestrian connectivity,

* In the closest vote of the night, 131-31, Town Meeting representatives approved borrowing money for a $3 million expansion to Fox Hill Cemetery. Conversation on the article focused on the impact the expansion would have on the wooded area slated to be the newest portion of the cemetery.

* Representatives scheduled votes on two articles proposing a mixed-use zoning overlay at Technology Park -- a proposal that generated debate before the meeting -- for the start of the Thursday meeting.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins

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