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WVN #51: HSBC Consultants' Final Report

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  • waylandvoters2
    Wayland Voters Network December 3, 2004 Dear Wayland Voter, We would like to send absentee ballot applications to a large number of households, because
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2004
      Wayland Voters Network
      December 3, 2004

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      We would like to send absentee ballot applications to a large number
      of households, because unfortunately the majority of Selectmen voted
      against including the application form in their recent town-wide
      mailing about the Jan. 25 election on the high school proposal.

      If you have not already contributed to WVN, we ask you to please
      consider helping us reach more voters. Any amount is welcome. All
      money received will be used for printing, postage and other expenses
      related to informing voters and promoting voter participation. (WVN
      is a registered Political Action Committee. In the PAC's financial
      reports to the Town Clerk, we are required to identify by name anyone
      who contributes more than $50 in a calendar year; contributions of
      $50 or less are listed anonymously and in the aggregate.)

      Please be assured that no contribution will benefit any individual.
      Make checks payable to Wayland Voters Network and send to:

      Michael Short, WVN Treasurer
      265 Pelham Island Rd.
      Wayland, MA 01778

      (Thank you! Your ongoing support is greatly appreciated!!)

      The following report on the School Committee meeting of Nov. 29 was
      prepared by WVN subscriber Tom Sciacca. The first part of the
      meeting, taped by intrepid WayCAM volunteer Richard Turner, will be
      broadcast on the Wayland cable channel, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 7 p.m.

      SCHOOL COMMITTEE 11/29: HSBC CONSULTANTS' FINAL REPORT

      This regular meeting of the School Committee began as a joint meeting
      with the Selectmen and the Finance Committee in the Large Hearing
      Room, to have the High School Building Committee present its
      consultants' final report. (Copies are available at the library and
      online at the HSBC's site.)

      Doug Sacra and George Metzger of HMFH architects made the main
      presentations, along with Dick Amster of Turner Construction, the
      project manager.

      Sacra showed that the latest plans place the Waste Water Treatment
      Plant on the other side of the Field House, away from the abutting
      neighborhood, in response to neighbors' complaints about having it in
      their back yards. This also puts it closer to the Happy Hollow
      wells, a primary source of drinking water for the town, as well as
      the wetlands associated with Dudley Brook and the Sudbury River. It
      also puts it at a lower elevation with respect to the required
      leaching fields. Sacra did not explain why these factors, which were
      responsible for the original placement of the plant, are no longer an
      impediment.

      Amster asserted that this is "not a fancy project" and that "we do
      not take your money lightly." He went on to say, "Unless there are
      significant changesÂ…$57.3 million is the right place to be to deliver
      this project."

      Discussing the state's School Building Assistance situation, Metzger
      said that "although none of us has a crystal ball," conversations
      with state officials lead him to believe that the general
      regulations "are not to change significantly." Contrary to prior
      expectations, no one attended from the State Treasurer's Office or
      the new SBA Board to provide any information on the new program.

      In response to a question, HSBC Chair Lea Anderson said that the
      $4.232 million to be sought in the January ballot and Special Town
      Meeting for design funds "is a pre-negotiation amount," but she
      thinks it is an upper limit to what will be required. She did not
      explain why HMFH and Turner, obviously aware of the amount being
      sought, would settle for any less.

      Anderson also said that the sense of her committee is to make the
      $57.3 million current project cost estimate a firm budget that they
      will manage to. Amster seconded her assertion. "If we go forward we
      will manage to the budget," he said. School Committee Chair Lori
      Frieling agreed, saying "the budget is set." School Committee member
      Bob Gordon described the $57.3 million budget as "realistic," and
      cautioned that no one should expect it to "creep down."

      Selectmen Chair Betsy Connolly asked about the number of projects
      Wayland will be competing with in mid-2007 when the current
      moratorium will be lifted and schools will be allowed to apply for
      state funds under the new program. There is a $500 million/year cap
      on funding. School Superintendent Gary Burton has made some
      preliminary inquiries and been told there are about 40 school
      construction projects being considered in various towns. He expects
      to have more information by the end of the month. (If, for example,
      there were 40 projects applying for an average of $20 million in
      reimbursement, the requests could total $800 million, far exceeding
      the available funds.)

      Gordon asked, "Is $500 million more than was ever committed before?"
      Metzger replied that it was, but that's why the waiting list was
      growing, because the amount actually spent in the past was far less
      than the need.

      In response to suggestions that by getting started now Wayland would
      be "first in line," Metzger explained that funding priorities are
      expected to continue to be based on need in terms of facilities, not
      on who applies first. He said that under the old regulations, a
      proposed project dealing with condemned or unsound buildings was
      given first priority; a project dealing with large enrollment
      increases was given second priority. (High school student population
      growth was a major rationale for initiating Wayland's project, but
      actual growth in the last few years is substantially lower than
      earlier predictions.)

      "There will be prioritization within each year, and being first does
      not supplant priority," Metzger said.

      (In light of this discussion, it was interesting to note the Globe
      West story on 12/2, School Building Plans on Hold, about Shrewsbury's
      decision to put a school construction plan on hold until the SBA
      reimbursement situation becomes clear. The article quotes School
      Committee member Deborah Peeples: "We're really slowing things down
      until we know what the state situation looks like." The schools'
      business manager, Patrick Collins, is also quoted: "If Shrewsbury
      wanted to build a brand new school before 2007, it would probably not
      be entitled for reimbursement. So we're proceeding very slowly.")

      After the joint meeting ended, the School Committee reconvened in its
      own meeting room. Members discussed the issue of handling a
      potentially huge attendance at Town Meeting on Jan. 27. The Little
      Theater, Commons and the Middle School auditorium were mentioned to
      handle overflow crowds, with TV hookups to the Field House. Another
      possibility is to have people watch the debate at home on Wayland's
      cable TV channel and then go to the Field House to vote over a period
      of several hours. As a result of a Town Meeting petitioners' article
      last spring this must all be planned in advance.

      HSBC members Lea Anderson and Dianne Bladon discussed their
      communications plan for the high school proposal. There will be an
      eight-page mailer, a fact sheet and ten sets of poster boards for the
      lobbies of various public buildings around town. Compliance with the
      law is a major concern - all information must be factual. Public
      funds cannot be used to influence a ballot question, so the material
      can't mention the ballot question or the merits of it. A citizens'
      ballot question committee has been formed which can present a
      position, but the HSBC will not agree to be associated with this
      group. It was mentioned that there are ways to get around it.
      Gordon enthused that, for example, a flyer simply saying "Vote on
      January 25" could be stacked alongside flyers describing the
      project. He commented on the silliness of the government in forcing
      the use of two pieces of paper rather than one.

      A long discussion followed on the precise wording that should be used
      in the material to describe the likelihood of SBA reimbursement. All
      School Committee members believe that state aid is more likely than
      not; all also accept that funding is not guaranteed. Gordon argued
      for the use of very strong language - "we will almost certainly get
      reimbursement" - while member Heather Pineault believed that "likely"
      adequately conveyed the facts. Frieling suggested the use
      of "expected," which drew a consensus from the group.

      SCHOOL COMMITTEE CAPITAL WARRANT ARTICLES - Articles for capital
      requests for Annual Town Meeting in April need to be submitted by
      December 15. The SC discussed the purchase of modular science labs,
      although Superintendent Burton is currently investigating a temporary
      renovation of existing labs to make do until the presumed new high
      school is ready. He believes a few rooms can be renovated without
      bringing them all the way up to code, but needs to check. Moving
      WayCAM's studio out next year and maybe The Education Cooperative
      (TEC) the year after will provide enough space to meet the enrollment
      needs.

      They also discussed requesting money to begin repairs of the Happy
      Hollow windows and roof. Some of the windows are in terrible shape
      and need replacing immediately; all need it soon. The roof, while
      not leaking yet, is near the end of its life.

      A long discussion revolved around replacing two School Department
      cars, a decrepit 1987 station wagon used for maintenance purposes
      around town and Burton's vehicle, purchased in 1996 and with 139K
      miles. Burton said he didn't want to argue for his own personal
      interest, but then reminded the School Committee that his contract
      calls for him to be supplied with a car. The SC agreed that the 1987
      utility vehicle was clearly the more urgent need and that Burton's
      car could last another year, but decided to ask for both this year
      because next year they could be asking for over $53 million for
      completion of the proposed high school project.

      The School Committee voted to submit seven capital spending articles,
      subject to Frieling discussing the proposals with Finance Committee
      Chair Bob Lentz.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. We have many new
      subscribers who may want to see back issues. You can find them at:
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      Please forward this newsletter to your friends and neighbors in
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer
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