Friday, October 12, 2007
Request from town for Spalding funds put on hold School optimistic about state funding
Based on information that the town might receive state approval for the Spalding Building replacement project, the Carlisle School put its request for funds for an architect on hold — for now. After a conversation last week with Katherine Craven, director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), it appears the agency might place Carlisle's Spalding project on its priority list, according to School Building Committee Chair Christy Barbee.
Craven told Barbee and Superintendent Marie Doyle that Spalding's poor building rating, which was issued by the state and verified by a recent agency visit to Carlisle, could put the project near the top of the state's priority list. In a memo to the Selectmen, Barbee explained that the MSBA director had indicated, "It would be advantageous to [Carlisle] to put aside your current effort to move alone for a design and to partner instead with MSBA."
The MSBA board is expected to vote on a preliminary priority list this fall and notify school districts if they are selected. Although the school has not received any official word yet, notification could occur by early November if the school makes the initial priority list. If Carlisle is not on the first priority list, it could still receive approval in the next three months, Barbee told Selectmen at their meeting on Tuesday.
Although possible partial reimbursement by the state is good news for the town, the Selectmen said the project needs a careful review process before voters can be asked to accept it. All Selectmen, with the exception of Bill Tice who was not present, agreed that Spalding needs to be replaced, but with input from the town. "We're doing the Carlisle building project in the shadow of Concord-Carlisle High School," John Williams pointed out regarding the two pending school building projects. He said he believes the town will likely support a smaller version of the proposed building plan.
Chair Tim Hult said that while residents consistently support the school, practical issues need to be addressed. "We need to consider the affordability of the project and how to be cost-effective about meeting the needs of the school."
School Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman cautioned the selectmen about reducing the size of the building. She said her understanding is the state wants to make sure a building project addresses a school's needs for at least ten years. Regarding the building addition size, Barbee said the state plans to review town enrollment projections as well as do their own analysis.
If the school does not receive state approval within the next few months, Barbee said the building committee will consider resubmitting its request for design funds next spring.
"The MSBA likes to have a community who want to support the school," Building Committee member Wendell Sykes pointed out, bringing up another possible factor in the selection process. If the school receives state approval for its project, town approval of the building project through a Special Town Meeting and ballot box vote is critical to the school and the MSBA. Without town approval, the project would likely lose priority status with the state, causing further delays with the project.
The Building Committee voted last month for a building addition estimated to cost approximately $30 million. The new building would replace the Spalding Building with a new two-to three-story elementary building of around 60,000 square feet to be connected to either the Wilkins or Corey Buildings, or both.
Last year, the high school's feasibility study group recommended building a new high school at a cost estimated then at around $90 million. The group recommended a complete building replacement rather than spending nearly the same amount of money to make extensive renovations on the high school's deteriorating buildings. The entire Concord-Carlisle High School is rated in the poorest condition by the state, along with Carlisle's Spalding Building.
Project manager role
This week, Barbee and Zimmerman contacted Pinnacle One, a construction consulting company that works closely with the MSBA, for their opinion on the status of the Carlisle School project. The Pinacle One consultant, Chuck Adam, said the agency wants to get things moving and will select 20 school construction projects initially, choosing those with the worst conditions first. Projects selected in the first group will be on a fast track to start the building process.
The state requires a school to hire an Owner's Project Manager, such as Pinnacle One, once a building project is approved. The OPM oversees spending and adds professional oversight of construction practices on an ongoing basis.
The project manager would first help to write a solicitation for a designer for the new building, part of the new state process. Then, a feasibility study would be done to update and verify the school's Master Plan completed last year. If Carlisle is selected, the school would need some funds to pay for the initial OPM fees. These fees are estimated at between 2.5 and 4 percent of the building project and would be paid on an ongoing basis during the project.
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