The owner of the building where Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU) has its offices wants the district superintendent to stop disparaging the leased space and to present accurate rental cost information to local school boards.
In response to information being presented to local school boards about the offices that WWSU rents from Small Dog Electronics, company president Don Mayer has asked Superintendent Brigid Scheffert for the opportunity to respond to members of those boards.
WWSU has leased 3,000 square feet of office space at the Small Dog Electronics complex since the mid-1990s. An October 12 memo to school boards references “Supervisory Central Office” issues and enumerates “unmet Tenant needs by our WWSU team due to conditions at the offices…” and goes on to list a number of issues, noting that VOSHA had been called because of rodents and other issues.
The memo goes on to report that WWSU currently pays $12.73 per square foot, or $32,000 per year for rent.
“A new larger and more suitable space was found at Mad River Park. The space is being offered at $10 per square feet for 4,000 square feet of space which better meets the needs of the team. That would be an increase to $40,000 per year, but it must be noted that the rent would probably increase at the Small Dog site to something like $35,000 per year,” the memo reads.
“We hope to get clarity on whether or not the landlord will even continue to lease to WWSU as this has been a tenuous situation,” her memo continues.
Mayer’s response takes the complaints item by item and also refutes the financial data that Scheffert presented to school boards.
“It has come to my attention that you have been making certain representations and allegations at public school board meetings that are misleading and inaccurate. I would like to set the record straight so that we can discuss your lease in good faith,” Mayer wrote.
He noted that WWSU rents about 3,000 square feet for $10.62 per square foot including utilities (heat and electricity). The annual rent is currently $31,863 which represents $10.62 per square foot, as opposed to the $12.73 per square foot that was represented to the school boards. Mayer also points out that the Mad River Park space does not include utilities.
He said that WWSU has a two-year rental renewal option that includes a $609 rent increase the first year and a $648 the second year so that the rent at the end of the second year would be $33,120 rather than $35,000.
The superintendent’s memo spells out issues with the space including air quality, rodents, hot water, disengaged landlord, VOSHA call and lease renewal. Mayer goes down the list that he had received no complaints about air quality.
“Rodents: We have hired pest control on an ongoing basis. As I have indicated in the past, control of mice is a shared responsibility and all food must be covered. ‘Rodents’ is a bit of a strong word implying a mass infestation. Pest control found no evidence of this and only one mouse was caught in the traps set,” he wrote.
“Hot water: We continue to provide energy efficient instantaneous hot water. While it does necessitate some patience to allow the hot water to reach the faucet, hot water is provided and this has been verified multiple times with plumbers and others,” he continued.
Mayer said he found allegations of being a disengaged landlord offensive and noted that he had employees capable of handling complaints at the building six days a week. He noted that she had told school boards that VOSHA had been called, but she neglected to mention that the VOSHA inspector concluded that her complaints were without merit.
“You have represented that it is very likely I may not renew. This is patently untrue. I have consistently indicated that we value WWSU as a tenant. Furthermore, you have an existing two-year option to renew the lease on favorable terms,” Mayer wrote.
“These misrepresentations in public forums serve to slander our name, and I find it highly inappropriate for you to provide misinformation to the governing bodies. You are a taxpayer- funded government entity and as a taxpayer in this town and in Warren, I am concerned about the attempt to increase the supervisory union's overhead. I think if the space is inadequate you should consider other options; however, misrepresenting the facts is highly inappropriate. We would appreciate the opportunity to defend ourselves against this attack in public forums. . . . When we meet, it would be very helpful if there were representative(s) from the appropriate boards present so that we can set the record straight concerning your lease,” Mayer concluded.
Scheffert was unavailable for comment on the issue of the lease and Mayer’s letter. Harwood Union School Board chair Scott Mackey, who also sits on the WWSU executive board, said, “The lease is up at Small Dog. So we were shopping around to see what deals are out there. The board and superintendent’s office will make that decision when we have numbers to look at. It’s still being determined.”