Antrim and School Board renegotiate gym costs, deem ConVal advisory article unnecessary

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/6/2020 10:06:57 AM
Modified: 3/6/2020 10:06:45 AM

A petition article on the ConVal School District’s 2020 warrant seeks fairer terms for the district’s use of facilities, such as the Antrim Town Gym, that are owned by other entities like towns. School Board members and the Antrim Select Board believe they can reach fairer negotiations without the article’s recommendations.

Article 9 is advisory in nature, former School Board Chair Myron Steere said, but he wrote it because he wanted to make taxpayers more aware of what he saw as an unfair burden on the School District.

“The thing that bothers me [is that] when I was in Greenfield, I was paying for Antrim’s Rec Department,” Steere said. “Why should the other towns in the district pay for Antrim’s Rec and gym costs year round?”

The School District currently has access to the Antrim gym eight hours a day, 180 days a year. It’s used for physical education classes for Antrim Elementary School and Great Brook Middle School, Steere said, as well as Antrim Recreation Department programs including Zumba classes and pickleball.

The district has paid for the gymnasium’s heat and electricity year round since the ConVal School District formed in the 1970s, Steere said. Over the years, the School District has paid for new lights, and additional maintenance in the gym and on adjacent Shea Field. Steere estimated that the School District pays for 70 percent of the facility’s costs, despite only using it 16 percent of the time. Article 9 proposes a new pricing formula based on the amount of time the School District has access to the gym, Steere said, which would considerably reduce the amount the School District has to pay.

Antrim Select Board Chair John Robertson didn’t think the School District was overpaying all that much, citing “a lot more expenses” associated with the gym and Shea Field that never factors into School District costs, including gym equipment, a tractor and mowers, and building and grounds maintenance.

Even so, the Select Board is already negotiating new terms with the School District, Robertson said, adding that ConVal could stand to pay less in the new negotiations.

“We’re trying to come up with a more realistic sharing of expenses, so the school doesn’t pay the electric or heat bill when they’re not using it,” he said, although in the past, the school’s year round funding for electricity, heat, and janitorial services has been in lieu of a rent agreement.

Robertson saw the article and its recommendations as unnecessary, and said that overly rigid payment formulas could hurt the School District’s ability to negotiate on other facilities they use in other towns. 

The School Board should be finished negotiating the new agreement with Antrim in the next 30 to 60 days, School Board Chairman Stephan Morrissey said, and that the School Board does not recommend the article.

“We do our very best to obtain the best terms for any contract,” he said, as it concerns taxpayers and students.

Negotiations with Antrim on the use of the gym are supposed to be done on an annual basis, although it hasn’t happened every year, Morrissey said.

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