WVN 26: last week's High School Building Committee meeting
- 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
Without prioritization "we can't make choices," said HSBC chair Lea
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair