WVN #43: HIGH SCHOOL COST RISING AGAIN?
- Wayland Voters Network
October 31, 2005
Dear Wayland Voter,
This is a report of the High School Building Committee meeting submitted by
WVN Treasurer Mike Short.
HSBC October 28
LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT NUMBER
The High School Building Committee agreed quickly on $4.176 million as the
sum that voters should be asked to approve to start a five-year building
project. But there was no consensus at the Oct. 28 meeting on what to
promise voters about the full cost.
Up 4 percent from recent estimates of $55.5 million, the latest figure from
HMFH Architects and Turner Construction Co. -- $57.697 million -- set off a
long discussion on choosing a number to present to voters. The committee
will issue a final report on Nov. 18, part of a campaign leading to the Jan. 25
special election on a Prop. 2-1/2 tax override.
In the mean time, the HSBC is tinkering with details.
Turner and HMFH offered possible budget cuts to get below $57.7 million.
They total about $3.82 million and range from choosing cheaper but less
durable roofing to reducing square footage. Cutting 3,000 square feet from
classrooms and 2,000 square feet from the "core" building would save an
estimated $1.34 million. But it would also "cut program," which in the HSBC
lexicon means giving High School administrators less than they asked for.
Member Eric Sheffels said that would be unlikely.
The present "program" calls for adding about 69,000 square feet to the
total of existing buildings, the equivalent of a one-story building 100
feet deep and 690 feet long.
The architects and builders also presented a list of nice-to-have options
beyond the $57.7 million. Those add-ons total about $3.19 million and
include cinder block corridor walls, more extensive air conditioning, artificial
turf for the football field and roofing designed to last 33 years.
Member Joe Lewin, who has considerable experience with large projects,
warned against choosing a low estimate that could be outdated within weeks
after serious design work begins. "I want a number that people can have
confidence in," he said, noting that sticking to $55.5 million could
result in tough choices about what to eliminate.
The committee plans public forums on Dec. 16 and Jan. 8 and 13 to
persuade voters to approve on Jan. 25 a ballot question that contains no cost
figures, then vote at a Special Town Meeting two days later to appropriate
the first $4.176 million. That would enable Wayland to pursue contracts and
quickly begin soil testing considered essential to any chance of finishing
the classroom building by fall 2007 and the other building in 2009.
A vote on the remaining costs, which the committee calls "another bite of the
apple," could come as late as 2006.
Though the committee hasn't wavered from its strategy of seeking an early
start, the latest enrollment projections suggest no urgency. There will be at
least a temporary shortage of space in 2005 and 2006 which only temporary
buildings or creative use of existing space could alleviate.
Superintendent Gary Burton told the committee he hopes to avoid leasing
modular temporary classrooms next year, fearing a tax override. When he
suggested that the Wayland Cable TV operation might be moved out of the
High School, Waycam's Richard Turner warned about the town's contractual
obligation and noted that students use the studio.
The superintendent also said that maintenance of the High School has
improved recently after years of neglect for which he blamed his
predecessor, Bill Zimmerman, and the School Committee in office at the time.
The High School was last renovated in 1991, before Burton became
The appropriation for the High School project won't be the only article at
the Special Town Meeting on Jan. 27. Voters have presented a petitioners'
article to freeze spending on the project until 1) the new Massachusetts
School Building Authority completes a survey of needs throughout the state,
2) the Authority issues requirements for possible reimbursement, and 3) the
Wayland Finance Committee presents a comprehensive analysis of the
town's ability to carry the debt. The HSBC hopes the state will reimburse
about a third of the cost; cities and towns cannot apply until July 2007.
What if both articles pass? Burton asked. The consensus was that if
supporters have the two-thirds majority to pass the appropriation, there
will be enough on hand to defeat the petitioners' article, which requires a
The HSBC meets again on Nov. 10 and 18.
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair
Michael Short, Treasurer