Board decision paves way for parking lot

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    The site plan for a proposed school bus parking lot to be built behind Hopkinton High School was approved Sept. 17 by the town Planning Board.

    The proposed parking lot will eliminate athletic Field 9, making it possible for buses to drop off students at the rear school entrance.

    Town Meeting in May approved $400,000 for the parking lot.

    The project is in line with the campus master plan to improve safety at the High School by removing the bus traffic from where parents drop off students.

    The plan adds also parking spaces at the high school. The final plan includes enough space for 30 buses and 35 bus drivers’ cars.

    The proposed parking lot will also allow Hopkinton to collect approximately $50,000 in excise taxes, which is now being collected by Ashland, where the buses are currently parked.

    When the school district applied for site plan approval and went out for bids in June, it was hoped that the parking lot project could be completed during the summer before school began again in the fall.

    That schedule proved to be overly optimistic in light of a number of realities.

    The first was a series of protracted discussions between the school district’s engineering consultant, World Tech Engineering, and that of the Planning Board’s, Beta Engineering.

    It took three public hearings over the course of the summer, for the two firms to come to agreement in the areas of storm water management, lighting and landscaping.

    Money turned out to be another stumbling block.

    Project Engineer Bill Mertz, of World Tech Engineering, explained during the Sept.17 public hearing that the new schedule involved going out for new construction bids this winter and doing the work over the next summer.

    “We bid [the project] at a tough time of year. We did it in the summer when contractors pretty much have their work,’ said Mertz.

    He said he hopes that by soliciting new bids this winter “we might get better pricing.”

    The site plan received a unanimous approval from all six board members eligible to vote, meaning they had attended or watched on tape all three public hearings held on the project.

    Those members were: Muriel Kramer, David Paul, Amy Ritterbusch, Fran DeYoung, Deborah Fein-Brug and Mary Larson Marlowe.

    New members Gary Trendel and Carol DeVeuve, along with longtime member Francis D’Urso, were not eligible to vote on the issue.

    However, Trendel did speak as an abutter, and not a Planning Board member.

    “I am very much against this,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of putting another parking lot next to the school. It feels overly compact to me. There’s no room for growth.”

    “I think it’s one of those things we’re going to look back at in 10 years and say, why on earth did we do that? Like that just doesn’t make sense,” he added.

    Voting members Fein-Brug and Paul also expressed reservations about having buses parked so close to the school.

    Susan Rothermich, the school district’s director of finance noted that once the buses are located in town, parking them somewhere else during the school day might eventually be possible.