WVN # 40: Selling the High School Proposal
- Wayland Voters Network
October 12, 2004
Dear Wayland Voter:
The following notes on last Thursday's High School Building Committee
meeting were submitted by Michael Short, WVN Treasurer.
HSBC October 7
WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE? HOW TO PROMOTE IT?
While waiting for Selectmen to set an election date, the High School Building
Committee is refining its strategy for persuading voters to approve more than
$4 million in design costs for a new high school.
The committee is assuming a January election date and pressing architects
for a total budget that won't top $55 million. Some members were skeptical
that the newest design could be built at that price. Final cost figures are due
on Oct. 28.
Jan. 25 is considered a likely date for a special election. If voters approve the
debt exclusion, a special Town Meeting two days later would put the matter
up for appropriation. Voting on construction costs could come as late as 2006
and the price could be different.
Selectmen could put the entire amount on the ballot, and earlier than
January. But HSBC members have commented frequently that "time is so
short" to "sell" the project to citizens. They would be even harder pressed if
the vote came in December.
HSBC Members proposed two or three public forums, online information and
a mailing to all registered voters costing several thousand dollars. When
questions were raised about the legality of using public funds to argue for the
project, member Dianne Bladon said it should be possible for the HSBC to
hand its information to an advocacy group that would use private funds to
Member Mary Lentz has been meeting with the Finance Committee to
produce an estimate of the tax impact of a $55 million project, the largest in
Wayland history. The latest calculations include the effect of retiring other
Wayland debt, but also the added burden if Wayland fails to receive state
aid,which isn't guaranteed and for which there may be many applicants.
Superintendent Gary Burton told the committee he remains confident that
Wayland will receive aid, noting that the state plans to provide $5.1 billion
over the next two decades. Earlier in the week state officials projected
spending $5.5 billion over 20 years -- an average of $275 million annually.
That's enough, for example, to give 15 schools a year about $18 million
each, the amount that the HSBC has assumed would come from the state.
Lentz' latest charts don't specify interest rates -- a key to any projection far
into the future -- but she said that the "higher cost assumption" assumed 5
percent interest on long-term debt. Unfortunately, as anybody thinking of
refinancing a home mortgage knows, not even Alan Greenspan can produce
a reliable guess about 2010 and beyond. Given the record federal debt,
respected economists have suggested that in a worst-case scenario other
countries would cease to be major buyers of U.S Treasuries and interest rates
would rise to levels not seen since the early 1980s.
For the first time, the committee saw architects' perspective drawings,
colorfully showing a soaring interior space and brick-clad buildings in a
courtyard setting of full-grown trees and shrubs.
Member Steve Tise said that the landscaping plan wouldn't work without
more maintenance than is currently available from the Parks and Recreation
Department. Other aspects of the project have also raised questions about
increased operating costs.
Some committee members questioned whether the detailing intended to give
character to Modernist modular blocks can be included within the expected
Any drawings the HSBC shows to voters will convey only a rough idea of what
the finished project would look like. Schematic diagrams have changed
almost weekly, evolving into this: Demolishing all but the field house on a
campus with the uncrowded ambience of a small college (much praised by
students) and erecting two taller, imposing buildings containing an
additional 80 percent in square footage.
Whatever voters think of the esthetics, any design using this general plan is
likely to produce different and more crowded patterns of movement and an
atmosphere closer to that of a large urban school. Rather than moving freely
among seven relatively small buildings, students would be funneled in and
out of two multi-story buildings. The present 330-seat Commons, for example,
would be replaced by a two-story space seating 500 and acting as a central
corridor through the building.
Architects typically present perspective drawings designed to wow the client,
but the HSBC was wary about showing Wayland voters anything that might
look notably different after the 15,000 hours of design work, and perhaps cost
cutting, needed to get to the blueprint stage. Bladon recalled the hostile
public reaction when the Public Safety Building turned out to be nothing like
the conception that they voted for.
"I don't want to imply that we're building a Taj Mahal if we're not building a Taj
Mahal," said member Josh Bekenstein. Others joked about giving the public
a realistic view of the back side of an unadorned building, perhaps with a
garbage truck parked at the dumpster.
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair
Michael Short, Treasurer