By Ann Needle
The Minuteman High School Building Committee held its first meeting since its district-wide election on Sept. 20 voted to approve borrowing to fund a new vocational high school. Though the battle to gain approval for the $145 million project went on for several years, the Building Committee was told not to expect more roadblocks to a new school.
“We’re going to build it on time — and on budget,” maintained MBC Chair Ford Spalding, who is also Dover’s representative to the Minuteman School Committee. Project Executive Mary Ann Williams, who represents Owner’s Project Manager Skanska USA Building, Inc., agreed that having the new building ready by the expected Fall 2020 opening date is a do-able, top priority. As OPM appointed by the Mass. School Building Authority, which pledged to fund about 44% of the school’s qualifying construction costs, Skanska oversees the project to assure it meets MSBA standards.
Williams explained Skanska is exploring several possibilities for staying on schedule and keeping costs in line, such as moderating some of the building materials and starting construction before the last of the design in finalized. The construction calls for finishing formal design by October 2017. Reviewing other schedule details, Williams pointed out that some key dates include Aug. 2017 for starting construction, turning the new building over to Minuteman in May 2020, and staring the school year there in August 2020.
She noted that the next big step will be contracting a construction manager by the end of this year. This firm is expected to make the final decision on whether the current budget can work, Williams said. The project has proven itself very attractive, in Williams’ words, with 8 construction firms — an unusually high number — showing interest to date, even before it is advertised over the next few weeks.
Spalding announced that the MBC will discuss the candidates at its next meeting on Nov. 17, and to make a final selection at the Dec. 12 meeting.
The new school actually will be located over the town line in Lincoln. Lincoln voted to leave the Minuteman district, along with 6 other towns, under a new regional agreement — voted in by members last winter — permitting those towns to leave without having to pay anything into the project.
The Belmont Question
Among Minuteman member towns, Belmont was the only one whose spring Town Meeting voted down the project debt, while Minuteman needed a unanimous vote to pass the project. Under state law, Minuteman then held the September district-wide election, where the borrowing was passed by a majority vote across the district of 69 percent.
Belmont Fire Chief David Frizzell cautioned the MBC meeting that Belmont Selectmen are encouraging the town to hold a Special Town Meeting Oct. 19 to vote on whether to stay in the Minuteman district. According to the regional agreement, Belmont still must pay its share of capital costs into the project, given it was a member through the September election.
Ford Spalding responded. “We hope they stay with us, but that’s not our concern right now.”
Stow passed the project on Sept. 20 with a 79 percent “yes” vote. Minuteman estimated Stow residents’ share of the debt for an average-size house will be under $70 per year in taxes.