Fiorentini, School Committee Outline Preliminary Timeline for Consentino Repairs

Superintendent Margaret Marotta and Mayor James J. Fiorentini pictured with Rep. Andy Vargas after being approved for grant money for Consentino Middle School Wednesday. (Courtesy photograph.)

Haverhill Public Schools is preparing to take the next steps towards major repairs for Consentino school and pursuing additional state aid to fund repairs for schools throughout the district.

During Thursday’s School Committee meeting, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said the city is looking to put together plans to repair Consentino after being approved to receive grant money from the state’s School Building Authority Wednesday. The mayor said the grant will cover 70 percent of the repair costs. In order to move forward, a School Building committee must be formed by mid-March before hiring an owner’s project manager and architect for any repairs to the school. A feasibility study must then be held to see whether elements of Consentino need to be repaired, replaced, renovated or even expanded.

Fiorentini congratulated those involved with the effort, but also said the project will be expensive and may require assessing taxes in excess of the maximum levy as a last resort.

“Most communities have committed to going into a debt exclusion. I’m hoping we don’t need to do that. That will be our last choice, not our first one. But if that is a choice, if that’s what we need to do, then we’ll have to tackle that,” Fiorentini said.

Superintendent Margaret Marotta will also be exploring additional aid from the state’s Accelerated Repair Program after committee member Richard Rosa made the suggestion later in the meeting. Rosa said the program focuses on repairs for roofs, doors, windows and boilers, which have been issues for schools like Haverhill High School, John G. Whittier School and Tilton Elementary School in recent years.

Rosa said the city can issue as many project requests, or statements of interest, as they wish, but need to send the requests in by the early February deadline. They must then wait for an invite from the School Building Authority, which handles the program, to see which of the requests were approved. He mentioned the city has not applied for this program since 2011.

Rosa said there are various requirements for the requests. The total cost of every request must be worth at least $250,000, any city receiving aid must commit to using the schools being repaired for the next 20 years and applicants cannot request aid for expansions to schools. Rosa agreed with Fiorentini that Haverhill High School’s roofs should be the primary focus of this program. Rosa said in a statement to WHAV “we owe it to Haverhill taxpayers to seek out these state funds to make much-needed school building repairs, such as replacing the entire roof at Haverhill High School."