The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 28, 2008

Carlisle School building project estimate drops to $20 million

The School Building Committee (SBC) was shocked on November 13 to learn of higher-than-expected estimates for the Carlisle School building project, but was relieved on November 20 to learn that projected costs have been substantially reduced. Between those dates, SBC member Bill Fink, Chair Lee Storrs and School Superintendent Marie Doyle met with Carlisle’s Owner Project Manager (OPM) Sean Fennell to review the budget. The state requires towns to hire an OPM to oversee design and construction during any large school building project. Fennell presented an updated draft last week (see table), which shows the estimated construction cost reduced to roughly $20 million. Previously he had presented a $28 million budget, but, he explained, it was based on the school’s earlier study and not on the current plans.

The SBC is proposing to replace the Spalding Building and upgrade other school facilities, and is expecting to obtain partial reimbursement for the building project from the state, through the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). A Special Town Meeting is scheduled for January 12 to vote on roughly half a million dollars for schematic designs. The construction cost would be authorized at a later Town Meeting.

Negotiations are underway to hire HMFH Architects for the schematic designs. The firm completed a School Facilities Master Plan for Carlisle in 2006. The SBC does not yet have an agreed-upon figure. During a phone conference with the MSBA, Storrs and Doyle received verbal confirmation of state approval for the use of HMFH. “We did get the go-ahead for HMFH,” he reported to the committee. However, the MSBA listed four items which HMFH must address, including confirmation that the firm is willing to sign an architect’s contract with the MSBA. The firm also needs to file paperwork regarding minority business goals, to provide details on their current staff and projects, and document all fees for the building project. The SBC is still waiting for confirmation on the level of reimbursement from the MSBA. “I was told we would get a letter for a reimbursement rate soon,” said Storrs.

Timing debated

The committee began developing a list of questions to be raised during public forums (see box). Town Treasurer Larry Barton said that people may ask why the project is being done at a time when the economy is not good. Doyle said, “I agree, this is the worst economy, and the timing is awful, and we all understand that, but there’s always going to be something.” She worried that by waiting, the town might lose MSBA aid, “There’s limited funding in there and I think the well is going to run dry.”

Storrs felt that by doing the process now the town is positioning itself to get the funds from the MSBA.

Barton said there is a possibility that the vote for construction funds may fail. “Then you vote again,” said Doyle. “It’s happened in other towns. In some towns it took two or three votes to get the funding.”

Barton expressed concern that if the vote fails, the MSBA would move Carlisle lower down on the list of schools to receive funds, instead of allowing the town to revote multiple times. “I think because of the economy they [the MSBA]would understand it, that they need to wait, see how the recession goes and the job market,” replied Doyle. Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie asked, “Do we know that what they would do?” “We can ask them,” said Doyle. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito