The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 31, 2008

School Building Committee favors rehiring HMFH Architects

The School Building Committee (SBC) voted to request that the Selectmen hire HMFH Architects, Inc. for design work associated with the school expansion project, pending approval by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). The SBC spent the majority of their October 23 meeting discussing the pros and cons of the Cambridge architectural firm, which worked with the school in 2006 in the development of the Carlisle School Facility Master Plan.

Carlisle’s Owner Project Manager, (OPM) Sean Fennell distributed a reference check report on HMFH and a photo report booklet of the reference sites which documented specific architectural features. Five schools at which HMFH has worked were contacted. Four of the five references rated HMFH in the excellent range. Although one site reported leadership issues, overall the experience was rated an 8 out of 10.

Parent Stan Durlacher, who has worked with HMFH in the construction business, said, “They were phenomenal on the uptake....They helped get changes negotiated...and they were far better than the others we worked with in Weston.”

Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle spoke with two superintendents at the schools contacted as references. “They were pleased [with HMFH’s work],” she said.

Committee member Don Rober said he felt HMFH was given “too much leash” when the Master Plan was created. “They should have taken a stronger position.” He wondered if the company would be firm in following a budget. Durlacher said in his experience they could “design to a budget.”

How much will it cost?

The group discussed the upcoming Board of Selectmen meeting to consider the SBC request for a Special Town Meeting to vote funding for schematic design work (see article, page 1). “The issue is, how much is it going to cost? It is a big project. What are we getting?” asked committee member and Town Treasurer Larry Barton. The MSBA has indicated that Carlisle may be eligible for partial reimbursement of between 30% to 40% of the costs. It was noted that the reimbursement would be pegged to the original project budget, with any unexpected expenses the town’s sole responsibility, as an incentive to stay within the original budget.

The MSBA reimbursement offer has not been finalized.The school is also waiting for information from the MSBA on enrollment and on space guidelines, explained Doyle.

Barton pointed out that if the decision is made to appropriate money for a schematic design, then the town will view it as a commitment to the full project.

Committee member and Selectman Doug Stevenson said, “People will want to know what the full price is.” Stevenson strongly suggested that the school present its building project to other groups such as the Carlisle School Association and the Finance Committee before bringing it to the Selectmen. Stevenson asked, “Are we right in asking for a Special Town Meeting at a time of economic difficulty? Are we comfortable kicking this off?”

Bill Fink, who serves on the Carlisle School Committee as well as the SBC, replied, “It depends on whom you ask. Some say, ‘You’re kidding.’ Some say, ‘It’s a good time.’” ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito