As a member of the School Building Committee ("the Committee"), I was pleased to listen to the concerns expressed by some citizens at the meeting held on March 16. I would like to share the concerns that were raised, as well as the answers provided, with the hopes of clarifying misinformation with facts and data. The project data, including the most recent Schematic Design submission which includes costs, engineering reports and rubrics are available to the public at the Storrs Library.
Clarification was requested regarding a potential failed vote on June 8. If for some reason the MSBA did allow us a second chance, the second vote would be for the same project, not an alternative. Additionally, if the vote fails on June 8, we start from the very beginning of the process by submitting a new Statement of Interest with absolutely no guarantee of funding or timing. As stated in the MSBA Policy Statement regarding the impact on MSBA funding if a City, Town or Regional School District fails to vote to appropriate funding for the proposed project as defined in the Project Scope and Budget Agreement, within the deadlines established by the MSBA: "The MSBA appreciates the challenges that school districts face, but the MSBA's regulations specifically include this 120-day deadline for a local appropriation to ensure that the MSBA's capital program funds are targeted toward projects and school districts that are ready and able to make the financial commitment and move forward in a timely manner."
One citizen suggested that the cost of the project would actually be in the $80 to $100 million dollar range. When asked how he came up with these numbers, he explained that we need to build contingencies into the overall cost of the project. The Committee agrees and the Owners Project Manager clearly explained that the overall project cost of $78.5 million already includes those contingencies and that a full accounting of the costs and assumptions 300 or so line items are fully articulated in the Schematic Design submission (available at Storrs Library).
Also questioned was how our Fixtures, Furniture &Equipment ("FF&E") costs could cover all of the fees associated with this project. FF&E does not include fees but rather furniture, fixtures and equipment.
Another citizen suggested we renovate the building for $40 million and get half back from the state. This is an incorrect statement. First, renovation of the facility is not the approved project. Further, irrespective of opinions on costs, independent estimators put the approximate cost to renovate the building at about $60 million plus an additional non-reimbursable $3 million for temporary/modular classrooms. This does not include the additional $10 million renovation to the '70s wing that is not covered (nor would ever be covered under any of the options presented) by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and it will take approximately five years to complete. The new construction estimates for the preferred and approved solution is $65 million with no need for temporary classrooms with an estimated timeline of 2.5 years for completion. Again, this does not include the '70s wing. These cost estimates were reviewed by the MSBA for accuracy as well.
In closing, the School Building Committee has been charged with the task of putting forth the best long term solution for Longmeadow High School. There has been an incredible amount of work, deliberation and discussion, as well as numerous opportunities for public input, and the approved solution is the best long-term, sustainable and economical solution for the entire community. The fate of this project is now in the hands of the voters, but it is critical that the voters are making informed decisions based on facts.
School Building Committee member and retired LHS physics teacher