The Sherman Board of Selectmen held a special meeting on Monday, June 7. The meeting was held to set the town’s mill rate as the $9.38M school budget passed in their second referendum on Saturday, June 5, in a 309-254 vote. The BOS voted to set the town’s mill rate at 18.64, a decrease of 2.5% over the previous year’s mill rate. First Selectman Mr. Don Lowe pointed out that taxes have now gone down 8% in the last handful of years in Sherman.
At this special meeting, the board also voted to bring to a Town Meeting later in June a proposal not-to-exceed $300K for playground replacement and repairs at The Sherman School. Superintendent Dr. Jeff Melendez presented recommendations from the school’s Playground Committee to completely replace the lower playground that’s intended for older students. They also recommended repairing the pirate ship playground, plus adding a commercial-quality play structure to enhance that space. Melendez explained that the shoring up of the pirate ship play area will provide a safer space for the school’s youngest students.
The new lower playground plans—which will be made available online for taxpayers to view—include several pieces of equipment and, given feedback from parents, more swings including two Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant swings. Lowe commented that, given that playground replacement has been discussed many times in the recent year or two, he sees that “There’s a lot more specificity to this plan.” Selectman Mr. Bob Ostrosky applauded the efforts of the Playground Committee.
Melendez asked that the issue be expedited as quickly as possible as “The lead time is very long” on the equipment. He went on to plead “on behalf of the kids,” saying that he would be grateful for “anything you can do to accelerate the process to move this forward.”
Several residents spoke in public comment about the future request for playground funds. While several were happy that safety issues were being addressed, others questioned the timing of the request as it so closely follows the budget vote. There were questions about the high cost of the playground and whether more can be done to lower the cost, such as acquiring quotes from the other main vendors of school playground equipment. One resident questioned why the playground was at the top of the priority list, rather than the many other items that the school is said to need. And there was a question about maintenance, followed by assurances that the playgrounds will require minimal maintenance that will be promptly attended to.
Lowe explained that he hopes the upcoming Town Meeting—which will likely be held in person and on a Saturday morning—will provide another opportunity for robust discussion on the matter. More information will be forthcoming from the town regarding the Town Meeting’s date and time.
By Sarah Opdahl