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WVN #50: Angry Residents Confront High School Building Committee

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  • waylandvoters2
    Wayland Voters Network December 1, 2004 Dear Wayland Voter, The following report on the Nov. 18 meeting of the High School Building Committee was prepared by
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2004
      Wayland Voters Network
      December 1, 2004

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      The following report on the Nov. 18 meeting of the High School
      Building Committee was prepared by Michael Short. It was a lively
      discussion. As one participant said later, this was democracy in
      action, "and democracy can be a little messy at times."

      The meeting will air on the Wayland cable channel tonight, Wednesday,
      Dec. 1, 7 p.m.


      Nearly two dozen residents voiced passionate criticism at the 30th
      and most contentious meeting of the High School Building Committee.

      Residents of the Charena Farms neighborhood near Wayland High School
      said they are disturbed about three aspects of the proposed three-
      year, $57.3 million project, which would replace seven existing
      buildings with two larger buildings and renovate the field house.
      Among the comments:

      "You don't want a lawsuit, so why are you doing this?"

      "This is a bad, bad proposal. I will actively oppose it."

      "What you're hearing is dismay turning into anger."

      "Why a waste water facility next to an established neighborhood?"

      "I've never voted against a school project before."

      Referring frequently to their long and passionate devotion to their
      neighborhood as well as their hope to have a school project they can
      support, speakers named expected impacts of the project: 1) a waste
      water treatment plant near their homes, 2) an emergency access road
      cutting through their neighborhood, and 3) a grassy area they fear
      would negatively affect them if eventually used for athletics.

      One speaker noted that the Preliminary Design Report of more than 50
      pages never mentions the impacts on the neighborhood.

      Most of the committee sat in silence and seemed surprised by the
      public comments; two members later rebuked the neighbors. Chair Lea
      Anderson repeatedly thanked the citizens for expressing their views
      and diplomatically moderated a vigorous discussion between the
      neighbors and representatives of HMFH Architects and Turner
      Construction Co. HSBC member Eric Sheffels told the neighbors, "You
      are 100 percent right...We'll fix it."

      And fix it Turner and HMFH agreed to do. They erased the sewage
      treatment plant and the access road from preliminary drawings. Dick
      Amster of Turner suggested locating the plant near the field house.
      Doug Sacra of HMFH dealt with the third item by explaining that the
      grassy area was not intended as an athletic field, but simply a place
      for students to relax in good weather.

      Still, the neighbors spoke of a "slippery slope." What if the grassy
      area is later developed into a playing field, resulting in crowds,
      noise and lights? What if the emergency access road becomes a short
      cut for people attending athletic events?

      Any major construction will require a waste water treatment plant;
      environmental concerns, including nearby wetlands and town wells,
      limit flexibility. It is unlikely that the Wayland police and fire
      chiefs would endorse a project lacking a lockable emergency access
      road somewhere. Given these constraints, can designers satisfy the

      HSBC member Dianne Bladon told the neighbors she found the tone of
      their comments "very offensive." And member Josh Bekenstein reminded
      them that earlier complaints from Charena Farms residents already
      resulted in design changes that added nearly $2 million to the total
      cost estimate.

      As the HSBC prepared to issue a final design report, members
      discussed the next phase of their work: promoting it to voters. They
      considered handing information to an advocacy group, which Bladon
      said was willing to pay for printing and mailing to every household.
      But the committee decided instead to use public funds. Bladon said
      this would be legal as long as the mailing doesn't mention the Jan.
      25 special election on the project.

      (If the Jan. 25 ballot question is approved by voters, a special Town
      Meeting on Jan. 27 will consider an appropriation of about $4.2
      million for design and preliminary work. Also on the warrant is a
      petitioners article calling for a moratorium on project spending
      until the Finance Committee provides more information on the cost to
      the town and its taxpayers, and the prospect of getting state aid
      becomes clearer.)

      The HSBC discussed a campaign including guest columns and letters in
      the Wayland Town Crier, displays in schools and other public places
      and presentations to civic groups.

      A citizen asked the Finance Committee's appointee on the HSBC, Eric
      Sheffels, to explain the FinCom's view about the project because
      higher taxes may force some residents to leave Wayland. Sheffels
      gave a straightforward response that expressed the HSBC's mission.

      The HSBC, he said, was told to study needs and present a single
      plan. It was not asked to consider the larger picture, including the
      financial effect on taxpayers or the ability to fund other items on
      the long list of projects in the new Master Plan.

      Because this was the last meeting of the HSBC before it begins
      selling the project, the members were congratulated for their months
      of painstaking effort. In judging that work, voters may consider the
      HSBC's mission and how the committee made its choices. The HSBC
      based its plan largely on what it was told by Wayland school
      officials. It chose a project manager and an architect without a
      design competition. Those three sources resulted in the plan which
      the committee will present at community forums on Dec. 16 and Jan. 8
      and 13.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. We have many new
      subscribers who may want to see back issues. You can find them at:

      Please forward this newsletter to your friends and neighbors in
      Wayland. If they want to receive their own copy, they can send an
      email to waylandvoters@... 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. If you
      know anyone who'd rather receive information from WVN by regular mail
      please email their name and address to waylandvoters@....

      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer
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