School Committee expects to cut nothing of what has been proposed, unless total tops $308M
January promises to be a crucial month in the rebuilding of Arlington High School, particularly at the end, when specific costs estimates are to arrive from its project manager.
The numbers from Skanska are due Jan. 28. The day after that the estimates are to be reconciled with Cambridge architect HMFH, and key town officials, including the building committee. If the process takes another day, a further meeting will be held Jan. 31.
At stake during this crunch time is the project's overall cost. Since June, that has been estimated at $308 million.
Might it be higher? No, says Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, who told the School Committee on Dec. 20 that the state School Building Authority, which is driving the process, will not accept a greater amount.
If the estimates come in higher, then top school and town leaders plus the building committee must decide what to cut.
Overall, the sense of the School Committee, expressed Dec. 20, is to cut nothing that has been proposed so far.
Thielman: 'No fluff in it'
"We don't want to make cuts," said Jeff Thielman, who is also chairman of the AHS Building Committee. He said the plan to date uses "every space ... to fulfill the educational plan .... There's no fluff in it."
He said he expects a larger enrollment than the 1,755 students planned for in the new building. If those involved need to cut, then those should be based on what is educationally sound.
Member Paul Schlichtman said he agreed wholeheartedly regarding the cuts and enrollment. Citing one specific, he said reducing the proposed auditorium "would be wrong."
He said he preferred keeping district offices in the rebuild school. Relocating them -- the former Parmenter School has been cited -- would involve costs at that location, off Academy Street.
Member Bill Hayner noted that the School Committee has no obligation for town offices, which "belong to whole town."
3 offices expected to move to DPW
The comptroller's office, for years in the AHS basement, handles much town financial data, but the Facilities Department and information technology serve town and schools. All three are expected to move from the high school to the Department of Public Works on Grove Street, once the Town Yard is rebuilt.
Member Jane Morgan said she supports keeping the Menotomy Preschool at the high school, whether it costs $10.5 million or $20 million. She asked Chairwoman Kirsi Allison-Ampe to clarify an apparent discrepancy in the estimated cost.
The other office up for discussion was payroll, a town-school department. Superintendent Kathleen Bodie defended keeping it near other administrative offices and at the high school, calling it her "strong recommendation." Hayner and Allison-Ampe agreed.
Member Len Kardon called that "more of a cost decision, not an education requirement." He said employees could communicate remotely via email and teleconferencing.
Allison-Ampe disagreed that payroll is not educationally related. She called it helpful to have it near the superintendent's office.
Parking suggestion offered
Thielman called it premature to make a decision before officials get more data, including the cost to prepare Parmenter for offices.
Schlichtman offered a suggestion: Let the town manage parking via an authority. Saying the central business district is short on parking, he floated a model from his own experience as an administrator for Lowell public schools -- a parking garage near the high school, which would increase open space. Details were not discussed.
The committee voted, 7-0, to have Allison-Ampe and Schlichtman write a letter to the AHS Building Committee, about how to proceed on estimates at the end of the month.
Dec. 18 building meeting summary
At its Dec. 18 meeting, the AHS Building Committee discussed a variety of exterior and interior designs, voted on one plan and heard from four members of the public.
The committee unanimously voted to support a second schematic design for fields and parking after member John Cole said, "It's easier to go from grass to parking" than the other way around.
Plan A shows an outside design for 54 parking spaces, and Plan B has 27 parking spaces and more green space in behind a baseball field, near Peirce Field.
During a discussion of parking, committee Ryan Katofsky saw car use decreasing "over time." Cole responded, "I hope you're right."
As to a parking structure, committee member Francis Callahan asked whether the School Building Authority might reimburse for one. Lori Cowles, principal for HMFH, the project architect, said the amount needed may be above the cap of what the state will help pay for.
As to whether there will be access to a rebuilt AHS from Grove Street or a light at Mill Street, Cowles said the Select Board's Transportation Advisory Committee wants to pursue further analysis before making a recommendation.
Under the recommended Plan B, the basketball courts now near the Menotomy Preschool will be removed. Cowles said the issues was discussed with the athletics director and all phys-ed teachers, who concluded it would not be needed for school activities. The courts are used by the community.
In addition, under the plan, the riser seats to the bikeway side of Peirce will be removed.
Committee member Kent Werst clarified that a fire lane and drop-off for a rebuilt school will be along Mass. Ave., not as it is now, a separate access way. Another fire lane and drop-off will be at the school's rear.
During public participation, four speakers emerged from an audience of 10 people.
Among them was Carl Wagner, a Precinct 11 Town Meeting member and part of the group Save Our Historic Arlington High School, which has been seeking since summer to retain green space along Mass. Ave. and 1930s-era white, entryway columns.
He called the design to date "the wrong solution for right problem." He called the expected price tag "very expensive," citing costs unrelated to education. He said the charge to make the new building's energy use "net zero" should not be $23 million.
Ted Peluso, a Precinct 6 Town Meeting member, said he had to respond. "Get it done; this building stinks.
"You don't turn down $100 million," he said, referring to the estimated amount of state reimbursement for the project. "If you think I'm mad, I am."
The AHS Building Committee is next scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, in the School Committee, sixth floor, AHS.
Nov. 7, 2018, opinion: Let's keep working toward an AHS design compromise
Sept. 25, 2018: AHS rebuild update: Some urge more green; $308M called top cost
June 26, 2018: DESIGN CHOSEN: High school to be rebuilt, not renovated
This news summary was published Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2018.
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