The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 19, 2010

Forum spotlights Carlisle School building project

At a Special Town Meeting on April 5 Carlisle voters will be asked to approve detailed design and construction costs for a $20 million Carlisle School building project to replace the Spalding Building and renovate other buildings on the school campus. The debt must also be approved at a Special Election scheduled for April 13. On Thursday, March 11, the League of Women Voters (LWV) held a public forum to discuss this project, as well as a proposed renovation of the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (see articles, page 1 and 5.)

LWV member Ginny Lamere hosted the forum and introduced the panel of Carlisle School Building Committee (SBC) representatives including Chair Lee Storrs, Carlisle School Committee member Bill Fink, Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle, Carlisle Town Treasurer Larry Barton, HMFH Architect Laura Warnick, and Carlisle School first grade teacher Linda Vanaria. Audience members were encouraged to write questions on index cards, which Lamere read to the panel.

Storrs gave a quick rundown of the facility issues that have prompted the project. For details about the project, see “FinCom favors Carlisle School building project,” page 1 of this issue and “Why a Carlisle School Building project now?” on page 1 of the March 5 issue. Additional information is available online at and

An audience member asked what the Carlisle School Committee’s position was on the project. Fink replied, “The school committee is very much in favor of the project.”

An audience member asked what compromises were made to keep the project under $20 million. Storrs said they dropped a separate elementary music room, which had initially been included in the new building. “The MSBA indicated we were over the number of core classrooms.” He said the multi-purpose room could fulfill the need for the music classroom. “Another area we looked at was replacing the single pane windows, but based on economic analysis it turned out the payback was more than 40 years.” He said they reviewed a long list of technology options, cutting some, such as laptops and cable TV, but including interactive whiteboards in each classroom and wireless networks.

What isn’t being reimbursed?

Certain parts of the project are ineligible for reimbursement by the MSBA (see “State raises Carlisle School building project aid offer to $7 million,” January 22). An audience member asked the panel if it were possible to construct only the portions of the project that are eligible for the 40% reimbursement from the MSBA, thus reducing the total cost of the project. Contacted later, Storrs explained that 1,254 square feet of the 2,454 square-foot multi-purpose room is ineligible for reimbursement. The new space will be created out of three classrooms in the Robbins Building currently used for second grade. He said, “The ineligible square footage of this room represents $342,400 in total cost to the project. Eliminating it would be a pretty significant design change and we are not considering it at this time.” He noted that the chorus and band currently rehearse in the auditorium, which is often used for other school events and added that the multi-purpose room “will also be an area for use by the community.”

Another ineligible cost is the difference between the SBC’s cost estimate of $302 per square foot, which Storrs said is conservative, and the MSBA’s estimate of $270 per square foot. He explained why the site costs are higher than the MSBA’s cap, “We have a pretty tricky site and we have to put in a cistern. It’s a requirement and we can’t skip that.” The committee made cuts to the site costs, he said, such as proposed fieldstone walls. The removal of asbestos tiles is included in the ineligible costs, but the work is part of the demolition of the Spalding Building. However, Storrs noted that given the favorable bidding environment, construction costs may come in lower than expected.

An audience member asked if Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds could be used to pay for parts of the project that are ineligible for reimbursement. Barton replied, “Currently the CPA funds open space preservation, historical resources, and community housing. The answer is no. As old as we think the school is, it isn’t historical.”

Is energy efficiency a goal?

In answer to what is planned to improve energy efficiency, architect Warnick explained the MSBA “strongly encourages following the MA CHPS guidelines” (also called “High Performance Green Schools Guidelines”), which, Warnick said, are similar to the Leeds Certification. “There’s a strong emphasis on energy efficiency, recycling, indoor air quality, and focused on the greatest return in investment in terms of energy efficiency. In addition to low-flow toilets,” she said, the project will include efficient water fixtures, “highly insulated walls, and windows.” Storrs said the “siting of the building” is also part of the efficiency. “It is a compact footprint,” he said, which gives more play areas. “There will be operable windows and we will maximize day lighting.” Warnick said the MA CHPS “is a point system. We will achieve well beyond what is required by the state.”

An audience member asked if the low-flow toilets would impact the wastewater treatment plant. Storrs said the low-flow would still provide the right amount of waste for the treatment plant. “The problems are when we go from used often to not used” during the summer months, he added.

An audience member asked if there would be solar panels. “There are no plans now,” replied Storrs. He suggested panels could be funded by grants. Warnick said there are no plans for a composting project, “but it would be a great program – a great science effort.” An audience member asked if there were plans for a “farm school program.” Storrs replied, “Not at this time, but if we had a resident who expressed an interest it would be a good learning experience for students.”

Could the cost exceed $20 million?

An audience member asked what would occur if the costs turn out to be higher than the $20 million appropriated. “That would require a supplemental appropriation from the town,” replied Barton. “We would have to go back to the town. We can’t spend what the voters don’t approve.” Barton explained that any increase in the project would not be reimbursed by the MSBA. “If we expand, we are on our own. The ongoing audit process by the MSBA is done to stay within the scope of the project.”

Is state reimbursement certain?

An audience member expressed concern about the state’s ability to fund the MSBA reimbursement and asked what strategy would be used to deal with the risk. Barton replied, “The MSBA is a separate and distinct entity within the commonwealth. For a number of years they have floated a bond to pay for construction. The state would have to default on this bond issue to have this occur. Secondly, the MSBA resources are such that they have the funding available to dedicate to this current project. Carlisle is fortunate to be one of the first [projects] to be approved. We have moved along quickly to the current phase. Once the funds are committed I would not say they are set aside on our behalf, but it becomes a commitment of the Commonwealth. My experience with the old or current MSBA is that they live up to their obligation.”

Storrs explained that the MSBA has signed a contract to reimburse approximately $7 million of the project. The town has 120 days to approve the agreement. He said that if the town does not approve the aid offer this spring, the school would lose its place in line with the MSBA and forgo reimbursements.

In addition, he said the school would “need to go forward with roof repairs on Spalding and Cory. We would need to do fairly substantial repairs to the Spalding building.” He calculated if the required renovations and repairs were done to Spalding and the roofs it would cost approximately $10.5 million, “compared to the $13 million net cost to the town for the whole project. He said, “I hope people will consider that when they look at the project.” Storrs welcomed voters to send additional questions to ∆

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