Preston finance board keeps school security out of capital plan

Preston - The Board of Finance will not add school security upgrades to the proposed $1.7 million five-year capital plan that will be presented at a public hearing tonight but expressed support for the nearly $500,000 proposed security plan reviewed behind closed doors Wednesday.

Superintendent John Welch gave Board of Finance members an executive session tour of the Preston Veterans' Memorial School during a special meeting Wednesday to see first-hand security measures already in place and how the new plan would enhance security.

While Welch has kept the plan confidential - with closed-door presentations to the school board, the finance board and the Board of Selectmen over the past month - he said the entire project would cost $487,000. The security improvements would involve some physical construction for interior and exterior security improvements, cameras and communications upgrades.

Board of Finance Chairman Jerry Grabarek said the bill before the state General Assembly Wednesday would provide school districts with reimbursements for some security construction projects, so he would not recommend bonding for the project at this time. Preston could be in line for 60 percent reimbursement on construction costs.

Grabarek said if the board could start tackling some security construction projects in its regular budget, it should do so and apply for the state reimbursement. The state money, however, would come to the town general fund rather than to the school board.

The Board of Finance approved a $1.7 million five-year capital improvement plan last week that includes $750,000 for two new fire trucks, $110,000 for air conditioning for Preston Plains Middle School, $270,000 for three plow trucks and $275,000 for three school buses.

The plan could change next Wednesday, when the Board of Finance meets with the Board of Education to review the proposed security improvement plan. Congdon suggested at least $50,000 of that plan should be done within the next year.

A public hearing on the capital plan will be held at 7:30 tonight at Preston Veterans' Memorial School. A town meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 11 at the school, and a referendum is scheduled for April 23.

c.bessette@theday.com

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