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WVN 26: last week's High School Building Committee meeting

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  • waylandvoters2
    WAYLAND VOTER S NETWORK July 21, 2004 Dear Wayland Voter, I was unable to attend last week s High School Building Committee meeting, so the following minutes
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 21, 2004
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      WAYLAND VOTER'S NETWORK
      July 21, 2004

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      I was unable to attend last week's High School Building Committee
      meeting, so the following minutes were prepared by other observers.

      The July 15 meeting of the High School Building Committee was lightly
      attended compared with the previous week's forum, but new issues
      emerged in detail: educational priorities, building in phases, and
      the effects of a building project on neighbors and the environment.

      The committee told school officials to be prepared at the July 22
      meeting to discuss priorities in case it becomes necessary to phase
      in the project over a longer period. The HSBC is scheduled to choose
      one of three options -- all costing more than $50 million -- in early
      August.

      Without prioritization "we can't make choices," said HSBC chair Lea
      Anderson.

      During the 45 minutes set aside for public comment, several citizens
      who live nearby strongly urged the committee to discard or change
      Option 3. This plan calls for new playing fields north of the
      existing facilities, at the edge of the Charena Farms residential
      neighborhood.

      This would be "pushing into our living rooms," said one resident, who
      vowed to organize others and fight the proposal unless it is modified.

      Other residents detailed the increased problems of light, noise and
      crowds that Option 3 would bring. They said that even now they can't
      escape the play-by-play on the PA system and the noise of Sunday
      morning Pop Warner football.

      "We need to do some homework on Option 3," Dick Amster of Turner
      Construction Co. said in response. Representatives of HMFH
      Architects also agreed to study the problem.

      Among residents expressing environmental concerns was Tom Sciacca,
      Wayland representative to the River Stewardship Council, who said
      that lines on maps designating environmentally sensitive areas are
      legal boundaries that don't necessarily accurately describe physical
      conditions. Wayland High School is near two of the town's wells and
      the Sudbury River. He recommended keeping new construction as far as
      possible from vulnerable areas.

      Parking lots damage the environment, Sciacca said, because cars leak
      toxic fluids onto the asphalt, which is itself a toxic petroleum-
      derived product. Even the runoff from asphalt roofs is an
      environmental hazard. Least harmful, he said, are playing fields, as
      long as pesticides and other chemicals are minimized.

      Another resident recalled the unexpected difficulties encountered
      with ground water when the new Public Safety Building was under
      construction. The consequent delays and large cost increases caused
      distrust among voters, she said.

      One resident asserted that the Public Safety Building began as a $5
      million project and ultimately cost $14 million, including interest.
      But, he said, that experience "shouldn't tarnish" the HSBC.

      During more than 90 minutes of discussion the committee consistently
      described the project as a no-frills, pared-down plan that would
      maintain the school's excellence. Some presented the project as a
      cost-effective proposal that would serve the town well for 40 years
      or more.

      But there was disagreement on how the committee should proceed. The
      big unknown remains a bill pending in the Legislature to restore
      state construction aid.

      "We're sort of paralyzed by SBA (School Building Assistance)," said
      committee member Joe Lewin. HSBC Chair Lea Anderson said that local
      politicians are making encouraging noises.

      Still, until the legislation is signed by Gov. Romney and the details
      are spelled out, there is no way to know how the system will work and
      what percentage of costs might be reimbursed. An existing backlog of
      reimbursement for more than 400 completed projects, and for another
      400+ approved projects, would be cleared before any new money is
      disbursed.

      "In the best of cases we won't be receiving any (new) money until
      Lord knows when," said Eric Sheffels, the Finance Committee's
      representative on the HSBC.

      Committee members exchanged ideas about a proposal to voters
      reflecting hoped-for state reimbursement. In the past, the committee
      has speculated that Wayland might receive 30 percent of construction
      costs.

      Though several committee members said that the most cost-effective
      approach is to finish the whole project as quickly as possible,
      others expressed concern over the public's repeated requests for
      priorities and an option that in the near future would take care of
      only basic needs.

      Member Mary Lentz suggested exploring the minimum Wayland could do to
      solve the most important problems. That would add a low end to the
      three high-cost options being considered, she said.

      Dick Amster of Turner Construction said that even a minimal project
      could cost $40 million. (A 2002 study commissioned by a previous
      high school project committee estimated deferred maintenance and code
      upgrade at $12 million.)

      Member Joe Lewin said the committee will have failed if it presents a
      plan that the voters decide they can't afford. "Do we propose a plan
      that works AND will happen?" he asked.

      Sheffels noted that private schools often expand by building one
      building at a time, and asked whether Wayland could do that if
      necessary. That approach may cost more in the long run, he said.

      Some committee members suggested that costs could be lowered by
      modifying or deleting some buildings, such as a new auditorium and
      gymnasium. Member Josh Bekenstein argued that a cheaper plan
      that "doesn't make any sense" (lacking a new gym, for example) could
      fail at the polls.

      Some members suggested that the HSBC needed guidance from the Board
      of Selectmen and the Finance Committee on the political acceptability
      of the plan to be presented. Others disagreed, saying that the
      School Committee appointed the HSBC to create a plan that meets
      perceived educational needs, not to consider what the town might be
      able to afford.

      Bekenstein argued for choosing one of the three options and promoting
      it to voters as a cost-effective long-term solution. He said the
      plan would probably raise property taxes by 9 or 10 percent.

      The committee didn't discuss the project in the context of the
      immediate political future (an operational override vote late this
      year or early next year) and the long run (a new Master Plan calling
      for at least eight capital projects within five years, all requiring
      voter approval for additional debt). Wayland's current debt is about
      $22 million.

      NEXT MEETING: THURSDAY, JULY 22

      The HSBC will meet again at 7:30 p.m. in the L1 language building at
      the High School.

      Discussion is expected to include:
      1) Priorities and possible phasing.
      2) Estimated operating costs for each option.

      If you were unable to attend last week's HSBC meeting, a videotape
      recording of the meeting will be broadcast on the Wayland cable TV
      channel tonight, Wed., July 21, at 7:00 pm. This broadcast is made
      possible by volunteer camera operator Richard Turner, in cooperation
      with Jim Mullane at WayCAM.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
      friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want to receive their own
      copy, they can send an email to waylandvoters2@... and they
      will be signed up for the listserv. Or, they can sign themselves up
      by sending a blank email to waylandvotersnetwork-
      subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Click reply and send after receiving an e-
      mail confirming the subscription. Anyone who'd rather receive
      information from WVN by phone or regular mail should leave a message
      at (508) 358-9171.

      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
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