Council questions delay in takeover of maintenance for Glocester Elementary Schools

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West Glocester Elementary School

GLOCESTER – At the recent Town Council meeting, the board was about to approve formally rescinding the town’s contract for maintenance and clerical services related to Glocester Elementary Schools. Two weeks ago, the Glocester school district agreed to a new contract with Foster-Glocester Regional schools to share costs for maintenance, utilizing their personnel. Except, it seems that hasn’t happened.

The town’s Department of Public Works building and grounds supervisor has been handling the duties at the schools for an additional stipend, with DPW Administrative Asst. Beth DeCoste performing the clerical duties. That was set to change after the elementary schools entered an agreement with the regional schools to have someone on staff take over the duties, since town employees are not paid by the schools, but by the town.

But the local DPW is still doing the maintenance. If they stop, said DPW Director Gary Treml, no one will be maintaining Glocester schools, since the regional schools have yet to take over.

“The day to day stuff, we’re still taking care of it,” explained Treml. “I need to know who’s doing it, is the agreement all set, is the cost share all set, is everybody happy that I can call somebody at the region and say, ‘This is broke'”?

Council Vice President Stephen Arnold said he thought it was clarified last week, and the change had been handled by the Glocester Supt. Patricia Dubois.

“It clearly wasn’t,” said Arnold. “You’ve been taking care of our elementary schools since then.”

Treml said his role has included helping to notify parents about any maintenance issues that might affect students, as well as handling the upkeep and repair of the buildings themselves.

“All that stuff has to continue to happen all of the time,” Treml said. “We can’t have a lapse in that.”

When asked if he had been contacted by the school’s superintendent, Treml said “no.” Arnold shared a message he had sent to Dubois asking about the agreement moving forward. Dubois replied, saying the schools know now not to call the local DPW.

Treml said if the council so ordered him, he would stop maintaining school buildings the next day. That should have happened two weeks ago, he added.

“That’s the way it should have been, going back to last Wednesday morning,” agreed Arnold. “That clearly has not happened.”

“We’re going to need a meeting,” Arnold concluded.

The council agreed to withdraw the motion to cancel the contract until the situation is clarified, and it was clear that he local schools would be supported by the regional maintenance department.

“We have to do what we have to do for the elementary schools right now,” Arnold said.

Councilor Jonathan Burlingame noted that DeCoste is currently handling all of the clerical work involved, but maintenance personnel have to be available all the time. Treml added that a contractor can’t just be called and be expected to show up on a moment’s notice. So, the Glocester DPW continues to handle any maintenance problems, from leaky pipes to light bulb replacements, as needed.

“It’s totally not on you to do that,” Councilor Walter Steere told Treml. “You’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”

“Stuff has to get fixed,” agreed Treml.

“The communication I have today is inconsistent with what I am hearing from you,” said Arnold. “This has nothing to do with the council nor should it have anything to do with the DPW right now.”

“This should have already been resolved,” said Burlingame.

When Steere asked Treml if DeCoste should be calling Steve Essex, regional schools’ facilities manager, instead of Treml, he said, yes, that is what should be happening. Steere added that overseeing the Glocester schools is the School Committee’s job, not the council’s.

Town Solicitor David Igliozzi suggested postponing the cancellation until next Wednesday and sending a letter of confirmation to the regional schools.

Burlingame said he would contact the superintendent and resolve the issues. In the meantime, said Treml, he would continue to help the elementary schools.

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