At last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, (Monday, Jan. 9) first selectman Lynne Vanderslice told the other BoS members about two separate situations that have recently come up, each of which could potentially provide funds that could be used toward paying for the Miller-Driscoll Renovation–to the combined tune of more than $1 million.
$845,000 Leftover from Comstock Rebuild
The first situation involves unused bonded funds from the Comstock Community Center renovation. Vanderslice explained that the since the Comstock project has wrapped up, the town still has approximately $845,000 leftover in unused bonded funds.
According to the Town Charter [sec. C-33 e, f], once the first selectman notifies the Board of Finance that there is funding left over from the now-completed project, the Charter then mandates that, “…any surplus bond proceeds shall be transferred by the Treasurer to the general fund to pay debt service on outstanding bonds.”
However, as Vanderslice explained to the other selectmen, if the BoS chooses to, they can request the Board of Finance use the funds for another bonded capital project that isn’t fully funded. She then went on to recommended that the BoS do exactly that: “That these funds be used, specifically be used to reduce the bonds for the Miller-Driscoll project.”
Vanderslice said she believed that the Board of Finance would likely prefer to use the unused bonded funds in this way.
“From my days on the Board of Finance, this is definitely the treatment that the BoF preferred back then. They actually [once] got into a little ‘thing’ with the BoS when they decided to use it to reduce debt service,” she said.
Vanderslice also explained why the BoF would likely prefer not to use the funds to reduce debt service. “You use it to make a debt payment, but then you have to pay it back in 20 years, so you’ve just extended the debt.”
Selectman Dick Dubow asked how urgent the decision was, given that the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee is scheduled to meet this Thursday. He wondered if those committee members should be told before the BoS makes the recommendation to the BoF.
Both Vanderslice and second selectman Michael Kaelin discounted the need to do that, given that the Building Committee didn’t have oversight of how the project was funded. “They just want the money,” Kaelin quipped. Town CFO Anne Kelly-Lenz agreed, and Vanderslice said she would be worried that it would complicate the question too much.
She also reassured Dubow that the Comstock Building Committee has signed off on the completion of the project and had no issue with the move to recommend the unused bond funds be applied to the Miller-Driscoll project.
The selectmen then unanimously approved making the recommendation to the BoF that the $845,000 be used to reduce the M-D project bonds.
Energy Rebates Mean Cost Savings
Vanderslice then asked Kelly-Lenz to present a separate item–energy rebates the town would receive because the building is now very energy efficient thanks to changes made in the renovation.
“When they did all the efficiencies with regard to the HVAC equipment, lighting, recovery units, the gas boilers, Eversource does an evaluation of different thresholds and measurements. They gave some money back already but now we’re going to get back an addition $219,000 for efficiencies for that building,” she explained, adding, “They say that the Miller-Driscoll project is a very efficient building.”
Kelly-Lenz and Vanderslice hoped the BoS members would want to do the same thing they had done just minutes earlier–recommend to the BoF to apply the additional funds to reduce the cost of the project.
“It’s pretty straightforward, because you used the bonding to pay for the HVAC,” Vanderslice added.
However, Vanderslice pointed out that there were some minor items on the project for which money was spent that are not bondable–including hardhats purchased for all the students and flowers that were put on each teacher’s desk on the first day the building opened. She said it was just a “few thousand dollars,” which she hoped some of the money could potentially cover as well, and that perhaps $25,000 of the rebate money could be put aside “in case anything comes up in the next six months.”
Kelly-Lenz explained she hoped to have an answer quickly as she is beginning to put together materials to go out for the next round of bonding, which would likely be in March.
Dubow said he preferred to have the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee weigh in on just how much of the rebate money should be set aside for non-bondable expenses before approving a final recommendation, and asked that the decision be delayed to the next BoS meeting, after the M-D Building Committee could weigh in, and Vanderslice agreed to wait.