David Keele on Nov. 3

Bleachers, Cameras, Bathrooms and Trucks

The following is a portion of a transcript from the Nov. 3 Westford School Committee meeting. For other parts of the meeting, click here.

8:41 p.m. – Olsen then went to the item of additional security cameras for schools.

Kathy Auth and Olsen will have to present a capital plan, with the major one being the security cameras.

The schools have worked with the town’s contractor and it will cost $550,000.

David Keele on Nov. 3

David Keele on Nov. 3

Cameras will be primarily inside as well as outside at certain locations.

These cameras can be used by police and allows remote viewing by the Police Chief and Fire Chief as well as police officers and anyone authorized.

Olsen said work will need to be done to make sure this will not tax existing infrastructure bandwidth and he also talked about additional key access points to the building.

He said it was strategically important due to programs taught to students and staff that discover intruders in a building and without cameras, it would be difficult to do that.

Olsen said he would also request $40,000 for a feasibility study for bleachers and restroom facilities at Westford Academy.

There new bleachers on the home side of the football field, but the bleachers on the other side of the field are “disgraceful.”

There also needs to be permanent bathrooms near the fields.

Olsen said that there is also a request for a new pickup truck to replace a vehicle no longer used.

He said that the vehicles are often shared with the Water Department and Highway Department, and they often take hand-me-downs, but at this point there are no further vehicles available and this particular vehicle helps other departments on snowy days.

Otherwise, there are not large capital requests due to the newness of Westford’s schools. However, he talked about enhanced security at the Abbot School and a boiler to replace at the Day School.

Benoit then said that as time goes on, there will be more pressure to provide new bathroom facilities and the bleachers.

He also made a comment about the vehicles, saying that other departments in town use them until they are no longer usable.

Clay said that the security camera issue has been discussed at length, but it will be discussed more.

Benoit said that it’s not a good idea to have cameras on a wireless network since people could use jammers.

Keele asked about the purchasing schedule, particularly cost savings.

Olsen said that there isn’t a significant amount of savings depending on when the infrastructure and equipment is purchased.

Keele asked for more information due to a potential overlap, since it was learned during the turf field process that it is cheaper to install three at the same time.

Murray asked if the cameras would be in every hallway. Olsen said that they wouldn’t be in every hallway.

Keele said that question shouldn’t be answered publically, Olsen said he would not say where they would be located.

Murray said she did not initially support the cameras and noted that there have been 50 more shootings since Newtown and asked if cameras would stop those shootings.

She noted that a study done indicated that bullying was the largest issue in those shootings and asked if there had been more findings on those 50 shootings, saying that this may not provide additional safety.

Olsen provided a story about how a few years ago a student came to school with a gun at Nashoba Tech and they were able to find the student due to cameras there.

Olsen said Westford could spend $10 million and it wouldn’t completely prevent someone who wanted to cause harm.

Clay asked how this conclusion was brought forth.

9:00 p.m. – Olsen said that Town Manager Jodi Ross established a committee on building safety. In that committee, cameras came up frequently.

Clay asked if a comprehensive view of what had been discussed without divulging items not available to the public and if there was a way to let parents know these items had been addressed.

Keele said that would have to be discussed in executive session.

Murray asked if national groups had addressed this subject.

Ryan asked if we were locked into the alarm contract.

Olsen said that it is a state bid, and it saves municipalities time and effort with bidding.

Ryan asked about the pickup truck, what would happen if it was not replaced. Olsen said if it was not replaced, there would be no pickup truck.

Benoit then noted that guns get into courtrooms despite cameras and metal detectors and guards. He said that vigilance is best.

Murray reiterated that it would be good to examine if any studies had been done since Newtown.

Olsen said he would check with the Police Chief and Attorney General’s office on these items.

Kohl then had several comments on the other members comments and saying that the training given to students and staff that she had taken with Murray on what to do when there were shootings on a campus was useful.

She also made a comment about the vehicle.

Budget director Kathy Auth said that the vehicle being replaced was a hand-me-down from the Fire Department.

She also said that a dump truck may be needed in the future, although this would likely be the last truck needed for awhile.

Kohl also had concerns about the restrooms.

First, the schools are overspending on maintenance every year and that is being made up by hiring less experienced staff.

These new buildings may exacerbate that and that was a concern.

She also noted that there are several big ticket items on the docket and there are also concerns regarding circuit breaker funds. So, if help from the public is needed, it would not look good if the schools are spending money on the bathrooms at the field.

There was then a discussion of the recent study on all buildings in town and then Kohl noted that there were 14 areas where updates could help with safety issues.

Olsen said that the Capital Planning Committee recognizes the overruns and possibly might establish a smaller fund to address smaller items.

Benoit said that the Capital Planning Committee has already recognized some of the things as urgent.

Clay talked about the report mentioned by Kohl and asked Olsen regarding the schedule on repairs.

Olsen said that the Capital Planning Committee will be the driver of the items.

9:15 p.m. – Benoit said the items will be addressed one at a time and as time goes on, the lower priority items will be addressed section by section.

Olsen said it will take several years to address all these items.

There was more discussion on this between Benoit and Kohl.

Murray asked if this list regarding to capital items. Olsen said that the Capital Planning Committee is carefully looking at the list to fund as many items as possible. Some can be addressed by the current operating budget.

Benoit then said that some of the things in the report that have already been mitigated, but it was unclear if there still might be a problem.

Clay then said that the School Committee would like additional visibility on items coming in the capital plan, although expected collaboration between the committee and the town.

Harkness asked a question regarding the operating budget of capital items.

Clay said an executive session will be scheduled regarding these issues.

9:22 p.m. – Two payroll warrants were approved.

Olsen then talked about an upcoming field trip that will allow high school students to become involved in civic engagement.

Kohl asked how many students and staff would be going and also had a question whether any parents were going.

A parent would be driving down and would be either fingerprinted or CORIed and a staff member would be attending.

Murray asked if the students were staying overnight.

The motion to approve funding for the field trip was unanimously approved.

9:26 p.m. – Minutes of an executive session were unanimously approved. Olsen made some more comments and the meeting adjourned.

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