The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 9, 2007


Building Committee wants design funds for Carlisle School on Spring Town Meeting Warrant

The Carlisle School would like the Selectmen to approve a Warrant Article for the Spring Town Meeting which would provide them with design funds for a new building on the campus. Construction costs continue to escalate, School Building Committee (SBC) Chair Christy Barbee explained, and the longer the project is delayed, the higher the final cost to the town.

The Building Committee, which reports to the Selectmen, recently voted to request funds for architectural designs and to hire a project manager, a requirement on all public projects over $1 million. They have not yet specified the amount of the request that Selectmen will vote on at their meeting Tuesday, February 13.

The Master Plan

The first phase of the Master Plan, completed last year by HMFH architects, recommended a new building, demolishing the Spalding Building and limited renovations to the other school buildings at a cost estimated last year between $26 and $28 million.

Plans are to construct a new elementary school building connected to the existing buildings and then remove Spalding. The 50-year-old Spalding, which houses kindergarten and first-grade classes, is considered in the worst condition of the school's buildings due to poor quality construction. Last year, the state rated Spalding and indicated it "may be a candidate for replacement" under new reimbursement guidelines. Barbee said the school now has a good design from the Master Plan and it is important to go ahead with it.

Application to the state

Although the school has sent a Statement of Interest, an application for reimbursement funds, to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, no one knows for sure when, or if, Carlisle will receive funds for this proposed building project. Selectmen recently approved the statement, thanking the SBC for the effort Barbee and School Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman put into the 30-page application. The rate of reimbursement is expected to range from 40 to 65%, based on a priority system, including factors such as the wealth of a school district. For example, on a project of roughly $30 million, the SBC projects a reimbursement of around $12 million (40%) from the state.

After fiscal reform and a four-year moratorium, state funding for school building projects is set to resume this year. Some districts, including Concord-Carlisle High School, have filed Statements of Interest for building projects, while many other schools are expected to complete them before the July 31 deadline. The state authorized $500 million for school buildings each year, but with escalating construction costs, the requests are expected to far exceed available funds.

"It's already been a long moratorium," Barbee said of the wait that Carlisle and other towns are experiencing. She said the school is overcrowded now and the facility needs to be addressed. "Obviously we're gambling that the MSBA will still reimburse schools that go forward on their building projects. But we can't wait forever for the state. We have responsibilities for our buildings and the school." If the project is delayed while waiting for state approval, the SBC says construction costs, now estimated to rise about 10% a year, will offset the state reimbursement and greatly increase the town's costs.

"We don't know if we are going to get on the reimbursement list from the state in the first year," said SBC member Don Rober, "In the new system, every year the school must reapply for funds. How do you plan to start the project?" he asked.

High school has also filed request

Last year, the Concord-Carlisle High School feasibility study group recommended building a new school at a cost estimated then at around $90 million. The group recommended a complete building replacement rather than spending nearly the same amount on extensive renovations to the deteriorating buildings. The high school, rated in the poorest condition by the state last year, is a priority for replacement along with Carlisle's Spalding Building.

However, CCHS will wait for state approval of its building project and a reimbursement guarantee before requesting funds from Concord and Carlisle voters, said Regional School Committee representative Michael Fitzgerald. If the high school is one of the projects approved for reimbursement, the school will receive final notification from the MSBA late this year, probably in December. The high school would then request both design and building funds at once for the Concord and Carlisle shares of the project at Town Meetings that, according to state guidelines, must be held within 120 days of notification.

Rober, who is on both the Carlisle School Building and the Long-Term Financial Planning Committees, said the high school now needs about $1.25 million per year in capital expenditures just to maintain the building, a figure that adds up over the years.

"There's not one of us on the School Building Committee who doesn't believe the high school is important," said Barbee of the high school's building condition, "but it's our job to focus on the Carlisle School."

This week, the Building Committee met with a modular classroom vendor after town officials asked them to consider less costly buiding options for the school. The group will again look into modular units, after previously ruling them out due to high estimates and difficulty in finding a site on which to place them at the school.

Long-term report due

Meanwhile, the Long-Term Financial Planning Committee, formed last year to assist both the Carlisle School and Concord-Carlisle High School plan their projects, recently completed a spreadsheet analysis. The report, which will be presented at the Selectmen's February 13 meeting, projects capital expenses for the next several years, including borrowing costs for the school projects. The analysis is expected to give the town more accurate information to evaluate decisions on the projects.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito