Friday, April 9, 2010
Special Town Meeting says “Yes” to Carlisle School building project
At Monday’s Special Town Meeting, voters overwhelmingly approved the expenditure of $19,550,000 for the Carlisle School Building project. A 2/3 majority was necessary and easily achieved, with 370 voting yes and four against. According to Town Clerk Charlene Hinton, there were 427 voters in attendance. The measure now moves to a Special Town Election on Tuesday, April 13, for final approval.
On January 27, the state approved the schematic design put forward by the Carlisle School Building Committee. The approval included an offer to pick up $6,988,637 of project costs, with the remaining amount, about $13 million, to be funded by Carlisle taxpayers. That offer was contingent upon voter approval at the Special Town Meeting and Election.
Building Committee Chair Lee Storrs said that, of the $20 million project, $12.3 million would go to replacing the Spalding Building. A new building would be added to the end of Wilkins, tying into Corey. Other pieces of the project include $4.4 million for repairs and renovations to other buildings and $3.3 million to convert existing areas for new uses. The results of those conversions would be a new choral/multipurpose room, smaller learning spaces, science upgrades and a new engineering lab.
Storrs advocated moving ahead now, while the state has its wallet open, rather then waiting and taking a chance with future funding. He pointed to the decrepit condition of Spalding and said it will need replacement soon. He also noted impending maintenance projects, including roofs and HVAC systems, can receive 40% state reimbursement if rolled into this project. Finally, he noted the plan would promote education by supporting individual learning and allowing the addition of a program in engineering. Storrs and his committee were applauded at the end of his presentation.
Board of Selectmen Chair Tim Hult also received applause for his presentation of financial impacts and his conclusion that the school building project supports traditional Carlisle values. He noted the project would add about $600 per year to the average tax bill at the height of the bond payback period, probably in 2015. He said the approximately $11,000 per household capital cost of the project is a reasonable investment to secure home values that are based in part on the town’s reputation for supporting education.
Hult also underlined the BOS commitment to keeping other town government costs tightly controlled. Funding for a feasibility study for a high school project will be voted on at Annual Town Meeting May 10. Hult said town officials are in agreement that a high school project is necessary and that it would be wise to move ahead while state funding is available, but noted the Selectmen will be working with the high school on affordability. The Selectmen will also closely watch town government expenses and oversee tougher contract negotiations in an attempt to slow the growth of taxes. In response to a later question, Hult said a proposed project at the Minuteman Career and Technical High School would have a very small financial impact on Carlisle.
Bonnie Miskolczy of Cross Street wondered about solar or cutting edge green technology as part of the Carlisle School project. Storrs said the school will participate in the state’s MA-CHPS program which promotes energy efficiency in school buildings. (For more information see www.massschoolbuildings.org/about_ektid64.aspx.)
In addition, an attempt will be made to meet or exceed the town’s proposed “stretch code.” Natural light has been incorporated into the scheme, and solar energy will be considered during the detailed design process. The displacement HVAC system will carry low operating costs, and maintenance costs for the new building will be significantly lower than at present.
Storrs said an estimated cost of $302 per square foot provides the possibility that bids will come in lower than expected. Alan Lehotsky of West Street wondered how low bids would be handled, and was assured the committee would bond a smaller amount rather than add on to the project. If bids are higher than expected, the $20 million ceiling cannot be surpassed and the project would have to be reduced. A 10% contingency is included in the project estimate.
Mike Hammond of Cutter’s Ridge Road was concerned that Spalding is the only building being replaced, and wondered about the conditions of other buildings. Storrs said those include Wilkins, built in 1963; Robbins, built in 1969; Corey, built in 1987; and Grant, built in two phases, 1987 and 1997. Later he explained that because of a water-retaining bowl roof and wood framing, Spalding experienced more rapid deterioration than the other buildings. Storrs said the current building project is planned to include major repairs that will be needed for the next 25 years.
Earlier it had been noted the project is targeted to begin in January 2011 and end in September 2012. A Westford Street resident was assured that play areas would be arranged during construction, either taking over part of the parking lot or in an area behind the school. All construction will be isolated so that student safety is not compromised.
Rik Pierce of Westford Street asked what would happen if the project is voted down. Hult assured him, “The school goes on. There will be school next year.” Storrs then explained that, between Spalding’s poor condition and the need for new roofs, $11 million dollars would be spent anyway, without gaining the advantages of a new building or the matching dollars from the state.
Several participants rose to speak in support of the project. A Cross Street resident thanked the committee for making accessibility a priority. Ann Jackson Hill of Buttrick Woods endorsed the plan for “affording the choral and band programs the attention and space they deserve.” Larry Bearfield of North Road was applauded for his summary opinion, “It’s a great idea. Let’s just do it!”
Concluding an hour and a half of reports and discussion, a vote was taken and tellers circulated to confirm the tally. The measure was declared passed at about 8:40 p.m. and the crowd dispersed in time to watch Duke beat Butler in the NCAA basketball finals. ∆
© 2010 The