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$24.7M in cuts bring budget for rebuilt AHS into line

Keeping turf fields, cutting bikeway connection

UPDATED, Dec. 21: The building committee, sharpening its rough-cut diamond of a budget for a rebuilt Arlington High School, this week cut $24.7 million, to bring expected costs back into alignment.

AHS project

To reach that goal, 15 members of the volunteer committee voted to retain two turf fields, but reduced the number of geothermal wells, remaining an all-electric facility; eliminated the Minuteman Bikeway connector ramp as well as the eastside staircase and ramp connecting Mass. Ave. to the fields; removed lights for the new athletic fields (lighting infrastructure and artificial turf surface remain); and modified exterior brick selection.

In bringing projected projected costs down to $290.8 million, with the state contributing $86 million, the "committee worked extraordinarily hard" to reduce the total gap of $29.5 million, committee Chair Jeff Thielman said. "We got this news back in November, and in one month we have made the necessary adjustments.”

$5M of gap cut already

Earlier in December, the committee cut about $5 million from the $29.5 million gap.

Amy Speare, who handles communication for the committee told YourArlington that on Wednesday, Dec. 18, the committee voted a total of $24,722,547 worth of value engineering, design modifications and scope changes.

"We successfully aligned the estimate with the project budget," she wrote Dec. 20, and the design team will update the documents and send the detailed design for the new high school to the Mass. School Building Authority after Jan. 1.

Among the adjusted items, the number of geothermal wells were reduced from 330 to 130 wells, and installation of a proposed traffic light on Mill Street was removed.

Thielman said that, despite the cuts, “we didn’t remove anything that would affect our educational programs." He said no classrooms inside the school were removed.

He said that if the cost estimate goes down during construction, the bikeway connection may be included.

Thoughtful committee

"I'm very proud of our committee and the work we did together," Thielman told YourArlington on Dec. 20. "The project team -- Skanska, HMFH and Consigli -- have all remarked at one point or another about how thoughtful our committee is.

'We have a very talented group of people who have put hours and hours into thinking through what's best for the town and our students. We are very proud of the building, it will be a beautiful place to go to school, and we will stay within budget." 

In June, voters by almost 77 percent supported a vote for a debt exclusion to approve the taxpayer part of the cost.

Under the agreement with the state building authority, the town cannot exceed the $290.8 million budget for the project, and taxpayers cannot be asked for additional funding if the project were to come in over budget.

Thielman said those involved must respect the amount that town voters agreed it.

The 2 1/2-hour meeting Dec. 18 involved a number of votes on a lengthy series of items that had been sought for the project. Changes in costs for construction since the budget number was approved last February led to the sizable gap reported in November.

Read a summary of project cuts here >>

For more information, visit or follow the project on Facebook and YouTube

Dec. 14, 2019: About $5M cut from cost gap for new AHS design
Nov. 22, 2019: Estimate for new AHS design shows $29.5M gap
June 14, 2019: A special election: AHS rebuild, override OK'd with strong support 
Feb. 20, 2019: AHS rebuild committee sends schematic design to state agency
Feb. 6, 2019: Official vote backs cost of rebuilt AHS at $291.4M 
Jan. 15, 2019: Second AHS rebuild forum draws estimated 200 -- 25 with questions 
First forum, Nov. 28, 2018: Fears about cost may divide town, but numbers face more scrutiny
Dec. 5, 2018: AHS rebuild committee directs architect to work with tradition
June 26, 2018: DESIGN CHOSEN: High school to be rebuilt, not renovated
Oct. 4, 2017: 3 finalists chosen to design revamped Arlington High

This news summary was published Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, and updated Dec. 21, to add quotes and a link to a summary of cuts.

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