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January 20. 2013 11:10PM

Nashua officials at odds on how to pay for more school safety

NASHUA - Elected officials seem to agree that additional security measures are necessary at city schools, but disagree on how to pay for those improvements.

Some aldermen believe that a recommended $2.4 million bond to upgrade the school district's access control system is the best way to pay for new security features, but the mayor has indicated that the money should come from the district's capital reserve fund.

Brian McCarthy, president of the Board of Aldermen said Thursday that a portion of the improvements should be paid with capital reserve money and the rest with a bond, though he ultimately supported bonding.

Other aldermen, including David Deane and Jim Donchess, believe a bond is appropriate to pay for all proposed safety upgrades, including the installation of alarms and monitors on all exterior school doors, locks for all classroom doors, more than 100 cameras with a centralized monitoring system and a buzz-in intercom camera system at all main entrances. In addition, existing alarm systems will be replaced with 56 panic switches and 123 proximity card readers, according to the proposal.

"The project really needs to be bonded in its entirety," said Kimberly Muise, member of the Nashua Board of Education. According to Muise, there are several other school projects that require funds from the district's capital reserve account, which now carries about a $4.3 million balance.

Plans to repair aging tennis courts at Pennichuck Middle School, improving school track fields and upgrading the district's telephone system are just a few of the items that could require money from the account, said Muise. If the reserve account is drained, there would be no money to fall back on if something major fails at one of the schools - such as a boiler or other important piece of equipment, she explained.

Dan Richardson, a former alderman, said the recommended security upgrades should have been completed several years ago when they were first introduced in 2007.

"This is something that should have been bonded. These are long-lived assets," Richardson said. Another former alderman agreed.

"You must have a good access and control system in place, backed up by good rules and procedures," echoed Fred Teeboom. The Board of Aldermen will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to vote on whether to bond up to $2.4 million for upgrades to the school district's access control system. The Budget Review Committee is recommending the bond.

khoughton@newstote.com

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