|After much public discussion concerning the path for the Longmeadow High School restoration project, I have concluded that it is in the best interests of our community to extend a "yes" to the project as presented by the LHS School Building Committee and as endorsed by Longmeadow's School Committee. |
This decision was not made easily. I too, was previously concerned that to implement new construction might increase the cost of the project more than what the Longmeadow community would support. As a gray haired, 51 year old citizen of this community, a candidate for membership to AARP and a parent with a son graduating from LHS in a few weeks, I enthusiastically support this project for the following fundamental reasons:
- Reason 1: The proposed project is a hybrid of new construction and restoration of the pre-existing building that would continue to utilize the 1970s wings of LHS (52,000 s.f.) and construct new classrooms (185,000 s.f.) on the same land property as the present school. A previous proposal by another architect called for an entirely new building that was to be located on Russell Field (adjacent to Blueberry Hill Elementary School) and called for the complete dismantling of the existing school (248,000 s.f.) and the redirection of Bliss Road through a tunnel under the property. The LHS School Building Committee deliberated about the razing of the 1950s wings of the building and concluded that the costs for ADA compliance with the need for multiple elevators and construction of massive ramps, asbestos abatement, seismic structural reinforcement and the difficulties for upgrading old steam HVAC systems were non-economic and impractical.
- Reason 2: The costs for this project spread out over 25 years are actually very affordable. Based on the town's net $44,325,000 financial responsibility, this will cost the average priced household approximately $475 per year or approximately 50 cents per day per person. Although many people emphasize the $78 million price tag, no responsible person has advocated a "do nothing" alternative. In comparison to a cheap Band-Aid "patch" job renovation, the incremental cost for doing a comprehensive renovation and the added value for the project to have dramatically longer life and improved performance are an excellent value. To do an inferior short term fix only to have to revisit the LHS renovation again within 25 years makes no sense; our long term infrastructure planning must not follow a poor man's philosophy. One way for Longmeadow to work its way out of its financial problems is to always invest in quality projects that provide optimum life-cycle cost. We learned our lesson the hard way with the Wheel Meadow Brook sewer fiasco that resulted in DEP fines and a restructuring of our town government; patch jobs and gimmick repairs do not work.
- Reason 3: The $78,452,000 expenditure including a $34,000,000 state rebate for this project will serve to create jobs and further stimulate our local and regional economy.
- Reason 4: As a LEED accredited professional and a professor of energy management, I endorse the proposed LHS project that will include dramatic energy and maintenance cost reductions.
- Reason 5: In this post-Columbine era, the present sprawled layout of LHS is a security risk since there is no appropriate central check-in or pre-screening entrance.
- Reason 6: Longmeadow as a community has one of the highest per capita enrollment of students in its public schools in Massachusetts. Based on the disproportionately large number of working professionals that have resided in Longmeadow for many decades, it has been Longmeadow's legacy to support and provide quality public school education for its children. Our community's children excel in our schools and achieve excellence academically and athletically; in addition, their musical talents have regularly enabled performances at Carnegie Hall.
- Reason 7: I want to continue to protect my biggest financial investment, my home. Longmeadow's property values are maintained by its quality schools. One of the outstanding reasons why people have chosen to move to this town is for their children to succeed by attending our public schools. Someday, when I decide to sell my home, chances are that a young family with children will be purchasing my home at a price significantly above a comparable home in an adjacent community because of the high standards of our public schools.
- Reason 8: Although Longmeadow does have high quality schools and its students are very successful, as an engineering professor at a nearby college, I know that providing an effective infrastructure is also fundamental to the overall educational effort. LHS has served this town for nearly 60 years and is in need of a comprehensive restoration and rebuilding effort to sustain the educational standards that our community has long established.
Although taxes may be cheaper in other towns, people have chosen to live in Longmeadow because we as a community seek standards of high quality in our lives, we prosper by our long term real estate investment, and we celebrate the opportunities provided to our children and grandchildren. Fifty cents per day per person for the LHS project will in no way jeopardize the financial stability of this community. Please vote yes and support the LHS project; this proposal is clearly in the best interests of all of our town citizens.
Prof. Curt Freedman, PE, CEM, LEED AP