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LETTER: Don’t Believe A False Narrative: Prescott Is Doing Its Part

To the Editor:

   Not every Letter to the Editor can be responded to...but the recent letter by Janet Landry Shea (April 12) requires a response because it put forth so many inaccuracies about the Prescott School that should these statements not be corrected, the public would be seriously misinformed. This is very important given the proposed Town Meeting warrant article regarding additional funding needed by the Town to fulfill its terms of the lease for that building.  

   Here are a few corrections:

   “Private non-profits came forward and proposed a plan to use the Prescott Building for their own purposes.”

   FALSE: Friends of Prescott did not propose the plan for its own purposes. The Town put out an RFP (request for proposals) for lease of the Prescott School and in it stated the purpose of the lease: “The Town seeks an organization to lease the Premises with an intended purpose of providing educational and other allowed uses that enriches the lives of Groton residents.” All for-profits and nonprofits were invited to  apply. We applied. We were given a “highly advantageous” rating for our proposal. The Selectmen approved our proposal and a lease was then negotiated in August 2018.     

   “The educational piece of the mission does not actually require the use of the Prescott Building”  

   FALSE: The RFP called for use of the building for educational uses and enrichment of Groton residents. The Strategic Blueprint for the Future of the Prescott School-- a study that was approved by the Selectmen in 2016 and on which its original RFP was based --showed that community space was maxed out in its buildings (Town Hall, Library, Sr. Center). Also the PTYC and the GDRSD community programs were booked solid on evenings and weekends with union custodial fees required. Prescott provides a space for young and old alike, at all times of the day and week. The fact that over 500 community education registrations have been recorded so far this year at Prescott shows that there is a demand for this type of programming at this location.  

   “At the upcoming Spring Town Meeting taxpayers will be asked to fund repairs to the Prescott Building necessary for safety.”

   FALSE: The lease for the building called for the Town to fund three things, not just repairs.  Included in the proposed warrant article is: Insurance on the building; upkeep of the grounds and parking lot (public spaces); and major capital investments for health and safety. The Town Manager proposed that $62000 would cover these three items over three years --reduced in Year 3 by $20,000 that Friends already has earned. His estimate was wrong and the Town must now come back to  Spring Town Meeting cover the Town’s obligation under the lease. Two-thirds of the amount, approximately $85,000, is due to  insurance and outdoor maintenance costs, not building repairs. These costs would be necessary to maintain minimally the building,  public parking lot and sidewalks no matter who leased the building.  

   “The payee for all that is needed for annual maintenance, repair,  and required code improvements is now the taxpayers”

   FALSE: Annual maintenance is the responsibility of Friends of Prescott and we have submitted a business plan and budget that accounts for it,  including care of the building by a non-Town custodian. We  have repaired, painted,  and written grants for the improvements of this historic building, all for the public good. As a 501c3 non-profit, we are allowed to solicit tax-free donations, and to apply for grants that a Town could never apply for, all for the sake of building community.   

   Ms. Shea says, “The proposed capital expenditures to preserve the Prescott Building are huge.” Where does she get this information? No feasibility study for costs has been done. Friends’ Business Plan calls for such a study next year, so that we all know our options for preserving and using the building in the long term. Perhaps Prescott will be able to continue as the Westford Roudenbush Center has for many years without major capital improvements until such time as state and local funding becomes available.    

   In these years of Fake News, it’s important to set the record so that misconceptions and misinformation do not build upon one another to create a false narrative. For these reasons, I am putting forth the real facts about the Prescott School and its lease, and encourage citizens to come out and vote for the Town’s obligation on its part of that lease. Friends of Prescott is fulfilling its part.  

Mary Athey Jennings

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