The Guilford Central School (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
The Guilford Central School (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Thursday February 21, 2013

GUILFORD -- Voters soon will decide whether a contractor should remove asbestos from Guilford Central School.

School Board members will ask Town Meeting voters for approval of a special article granting permission to spend $18,167 for the asbestos project in fiscal year 2014.

That would be the first installment of a three-year loan aimed at getting rid of the potentially hazardous construction material.

"The whole project would happen this summer, but we would pay it back over three years," board member Penny Lussier said.

Officials have long known that there is asbestos in some areas of the central school, which houses students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Last summer, Principal John Gagnon wrote a letter to parents advising that there is asbestos "located in some of the pipe wrapping as well as ceiling tiles in the intermediate/middle school hallway and the middle school classrooms."

He added that school officials had been following an "EPA-approved and monitored regimen to make sure the asbestos does not pose a threat to students and staff."

There was some question as to whether the material should be removed or whether it was better to leave it alone. But a closer look at estimated removal costs led board members to pursue the project.

The price tag "didn't end up being nearly what some had feared," said Dan Systo, board chairman. "We felt as a board, for the money they were talking about, it was best to remove it."

Officials have said the project's price tag will not exceed $50,000. And there is some cushion built into that budget: Systo estimated that final costs could be significantly lower than that, possibly totaling around $35,000.

Catamount Environmental Inc. of Wilmington submitted a low bid of $24,850 for asbestos removal, board members said.

There will be additional costs for items such as portable storage, new ceiling tiles, pipe insulation and additional manpower for cleanup.

"We'll obviously need more custodial staff," Lussier said.

The project would happen during the summer so that no students are present during construction. Asbestos would be removed in "all areas kids have access to," Systo said.

Of course, the project won't move forward without voter approval. If the article is defeated, officials said, the asbestos will be left in place and monitored as it had been in the past.

"We just won't touch it," Systo said.

The School Board is scheduled to meet jointly with the Guilford Selectboard for a pre-Town Meeting forum at 7 p.m. Thursday at Broad Brook Grange.