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Additional reimbursement likely for new school project

by | Sep 20, 2023 | Education, Featured: Education

During a brief meeting on Tuesday, the Elementary School Building Committee learned that the proposed Elmwood School project is likely to receive an additional $1.3 million in reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

The range previously cited for MSBA reimbursement was $44 million to $46 million.

Emphasizing that he would know more definitively on Wednesday, Jeff D’Amico, Vertex’s project director, said the firm and MSBA have been going back and forth with questions on a variety of topics related to its schematic design submission.

D’Amico said, for example, Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh and Assistant Superintendent Jeff LaBroad had fielded inquiries about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program.

Other questions were about square footage, off-site improvements on Hayden Rowe Street and the overall budget, D’Amico said.

An area previously deemed ineligible, comprised of 3,000 square feet of “collaborative space,” now will receive reimbursement.

Similarly, D’Amico said, the plan called for three science, technology and engineering rooms. Although two rooms were approved in the past, it took some convincing to get the third deemed eligible as well.

Additionally, he explained that $300,000 had been set aside to handle project advisory changes when MSBA “upped the bar” on achieving sustainability goals. The MSBA indicated it would make that amount eligible for reimbursement.

“Overall, we have a great outcome,” D’Amico said. “It’s a good day for us, and the hard work of the committee, School Department, Vertex and [architect] Perkins Eastman has paid off.”

ESBC chair Jon Graziano said that often in these types of projects, members of the public make the comment that “consultants try to sell us on fancy stuff.”

“Hiring great consultants pays off in real financial ways,” Graziano said, praising Vertex and Perkins Eastman for “getting the maximum [reimbursement]” from MSBA. “I hope the public recognizes the values of these firms,” he said.

Special Town Meeting date, approach discussed

The committee talked about Special Town Meeting tentatively being scheduled for Nov. 13 and the special election on Nov. 28. Graziano explained that the Select Board does not have the official setting of these dates until Oct. 3.

He said it is critical to keep the project on track in order to open for the 2027 school year.

The committee and interested citizens are setting up meetings, including with the Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 10 and the Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SEPAC) on Sept. 26.

ESBC member Jagrut Jathal is trying to organize a meeting with Legacy Farms residents, possibly Oct. 17 or Oct. 19.

Graziano spoke in favor of having another neighborhood-type meeting with residents on the other side of town. There also is a plan to meet with Hayden Rowe Street residents who are worried about stormwater management, he said.

D’Amico noted again that the ESBC is limited to sharing information and presenting facts rather than advocating or lobbying with its presentation.

He estimated the presentation by Vertex/Perkins Eastman at Special Town Meeting would be between 30-60 minutes.

Graziano said it most likely would have to be on the shorter side because there are other items on the warrant.

There will be no more Elementary School Building Committee meetings until Oct. 18. Instead, board members will concentrate on attending public forums a few weeks before Special Town Meeting to allow for questions and answers.

In other business, the committee voted 5-0 to authorize Perkins Eastman to meet with the town’s Engineering Department to discuss a sewer connection to the proposed school.

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