Survey shows Monterey residents reject idea of constructing new school


MONTEREY -- The long-term future of the Monterey School has been cast in doubt after a town-administered survey revealed 70 percent of respondents would not support paying for, and constructing, a new school.

The Internet survey results, which were compiled this week, queried town residents on whether they would be willing to pay for the construction of a new community school, which could cost between $500,000 to $1 million.

The overwhelming majority, or 93 of 132 respondents, said they favored closing the kindergarten and first-grade program and busing children to either New Marlborough Central or Undermountain Elementary schools.

"This is the absolute earliest stages of citizen participation," said Select Board member Scott Jenssen who discussed the survey results during a Tuesday community forum.

The future of the Monterey Community School -- a part of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District -- and a half dozen other town projects, were discussed at Monterey Town Hall.

Each of the half dozen projects are in the early planning phases, but about two dozen came out to hear updates on the project and discuss possible "synergy" opportunities.

The projects include a renovation of the Monterey Library, a transformation of the dilapidated Wilson McLaughlin House into a community center, and roof and facility repairs at the Bidwell House, which serves as a museum on a 192-acre estate. A representative of the Parks and Recr-
eation Department also said they plan to replace a basketball court and revive past efforts to find a dog park.

"Think about the question of how this facility might mesh with other facilities in town," Select Board member Wayne Burkhart said.

Following nearly two hours of discussion, the Monterey Select Board said they'd meet at Monday's regularly scheduled meeting to discuss the possibility of creating a Master Plan Committee or some other collaborative planning process.

The Select Board has tentatively agreed on a Feb. 25 date to meet again with community members about the town projects.

The Select Board was particularly interested in feedback about the Monterey School, which received words of support from the audience.

However, the survey respondents -- 78 percent said they did not have school-aged children -- overwhelmingly said they did not support building a new school.

The Monterey School has passed annual building ins-
pections, but the old building falls short of providing 21st century learning amenities, and doesn't meet federal and state building codes.

Some help financing a new building could come from SBRSD, said district School Committee member Maria Rundle. The district is developing a budget that would include a significant increase in the capital budget. The funds would be included in a rollover account that would provide short-term loans.

Rundle said there is strong support at the district to support the community schools, which also include rural school house in South Egremont, New Marlborough and Monterey.

"The attitude has shifted considerably at the district level," Rundle said.

The Select Board also heard presentations on other town projects. The Monterey Library Board of Trustees submitted an application several weeks ago for a planning and design grant to renovate the 83-year-old library.

The $50,000 grant -- which would require a $25,000 town contribution -- would provide a comprehensive review of options available to renovate the library.

The Bidwell House, a private nonprofit, will be applying for grant funding to repair the roof on the 250-year-old house that could need town support.

The Parks and Recreation committee is exploring a replacement for a town basketball court. They are also resuming search for a possible dog park.

Monterey resident Joe Baker said a committee is halfway toward its goal of raising $165,000 to renovate the historical building into a community center. He said the cost of the project is more than originally anticipated, but the community center is turning the corner from demolition toward construction.

"We're excited to be turning the corner," Baker said.

Monterey School Survey Results Jan 2014


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