|By G. Michael Dobbs
The former Chicopee High School will maintain its iconic facade as part of the renovations to transform it to be a new middle school.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
CHICOPEE The City Council approved the city borrowing $37.9 million for the renovation of the former Chicopee High School into a middle school on May 7.
The former high school would become a middle school, which as School Committee member Adam Lamontagne told the councilors would greatly reduce bussing costs to the city.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to reimburse the city $30.1 million, which would result in Chicopee's financial obligation of $7.8 million.
Councilor William Zaskey said the next step after the council's approval of the bonding would be detailed designs for the school's renovations. The bidding for the construction would be early next year with the anticipated opening of the new middle school in the fall of 2015.
Zaskey added the school would be designed for 825 students for grades six through eight.
Among the renovations will be the relocation of the cafeteria behind the present gym, but there would be no changes to either the gym or auditorium.
"This has been a long time coming," Councilor James Tillotson said, who added the project wouldn't be possible without the state funding.
Tillotson added, "It sounds like a lot of money but it's going to last 50 years or longer."
Councilors also approved $200,000 to complete the parking lot project for the former Market Square building in downtown, although Tillotson noted the project would "by his calculations" become one of the most expensive parking lots in the city.
"It was a really complicated project," he said and referenced the former pool hall and bowling alley was connected to an abutting building in such a way that made demolition more difficult.
Adding to the complexity of the project was the discovery of a brownfields issue on the site.
Councilor Charles Swider spoke in favor of the motion and noted the influx of new businesses in the downtown area and the need for more parking spaces.
Tillotson said he wasn't in opposition to the parking lot. "My point is this shouldn't have cost this much," he said and added it was a "very expensive venture."
Chicopee motorists should see some relief from potholes from another expense approved by the council. The councilors voted to spend $47,000 for an asphalt "hot box" and an infrared heater to more effectively fill potholes year round.
Councilor John Vieau said, "The pot hole damage has been horrendous."
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