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Holden Board of Selectmen
Joint Meeting Minutes with Mountview School Building Committee
and Finance Committee
February 11, 2013

7PM                                                                                     Senior Center

Chairman Anthony Renzoni, James Jumonville, Mark Ferguson, Robert Lavigne, Kenneth Lipka

Chairman Paul Challenger, David White, Gary Kaczmarek, Chris Lucchesi, Margaret Watson, Erik Githmark, Jacquie Kelly, Anthony Gasbarro,
Mike Sherman

Finance Committee:      
Chairman Don Mancini, Marilyn Foley, Karl Makela, Al Berg, Joe Dolak, James Dunn

Others Present: 
Mike Pagano, LPA, Bill Senecal, LPA, Elizabeth Helder, Recording Secretary

  • Presentation of Proposed Mountview School Building Project
MSBC Chairman Paul Challenger provided a timetable of the past, present, and future of the Mountview School Building Project.  The Town was invited by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to conduct a Feasibility Study in 2009.  A Committee was formed in October 2010 and began to conduct the Feasibility Study.  The MSBC unanimously voted to recommend that a new school be built on the existing site in September 2012.  The MSBA approved this recommendation in November 2012 and authorized the MSBC to proceed with the Schematic Design (SD) of the project.  SD plans will be submitted to the MSBA on February 14, 2013.  The Town anticipates receiving a commitment from the State to partially fund the building project in early April.  A Special Town Meeting and Ballot Election for a debt exclusion will be held mid-April.  If passed, construction will begin in spring 2014.  The new school is expected to open August 2016.

Chairman Challenger outlined the reasons why the building project is important.  The building is over-crowded and contains undersized and obsolete educational classroom space.  The building was designed to support 600 students and currently has an enrollment of 764 students.  The proposed project has been approved by the MSBA for 800 students.  The current building should be 40% larger just to meet the minimum state guidelines for square footage.  The building’s mechanical systems (HVAC, Electrical, Roof and building envelope) are 50-years old and at the end of their life.  Repair costs for these systems are not reimbursable and would be a 100% town expense.  The current building contains antiquated and inadequate insulation, ventilation, and lighting for today’s technology requirements.  Additionally, the building contains hazardous materials.  The buildings problems are chronic and will not go away.  After conducting a two-year feasibility study, the building committee determined that the best building option would be to build a new school on the existing site behind the old middle school.  The option was chosen because it will deliver the best educational solution while providing the town with the greatest long-term value.  The State accepted this option and will reimburse up to 56% of the eligible project costs depending on which green-building options are incorporated into the design.

Committee member Dave White presented the proposed site and building plan for the new school.
The proposed plan will contain 126,200 sq.ft., 30 classrooms (featuring pods) a media center, up to date science and technology labs, dedicated music and art rooms, and separate Special Education facilities/classrooms.  

Mr. Challenger said the State has the money to fund the project from receipt of 1% of State Revenue.  The project will immediately stop if the vote at the Special Town Meeting and Ballot Election in April fail.  There will be no second chance for a second vote.  The State will then give the money to another project in another town.  The State will not entertain another plan from the Town.  The State has invested almost 4 years of its time in the project and wants to see Holden be successful.  The State is not interested in partial solutions and is putting its money where its mouth is by paying for half of the project.

If the project doesn’t pass, overcrowding will persist and get worse, the gap will widen between minimum standards and the failing conditions at Mountview (both physically and educationally), and thousands more students in Holden will be educated in the existing building before another vote can take place.  Additionally, substantial repair bills $10M+ will have to occur to bring the building up to State code, including hazardous materials remediation.  The Town will be 100% responsible for these costs.

Mr. Challenger reviewed the Project Budget.  Two separate cost estimates determined the final budget.  The estimated Total Project Budget being submitted in the Schematic Design is $54,301,695.  The Estimated Reimbursement is $26,482,446.  The Estimated Reimbursement percentage is 49%.  The share for the Town of Holden will be $27,819,249.  The annual cost per average home (based on an appraised home value of $260,400) will be $261.00.

Participation caps are used by the State to limit their costs drive the difference between the State funding of up to 55.89% of eligible costs and 49% of total project.  The State will only reimburse up to 8% of site costs, $275.00/sq.ft. on construction costs and caps furniture and fixtures to $2,400/student.

Committee has spent money and time arriving at this decision.  This project works; and it is the right solution for the right time.  This new school will provide the right spaces and the right places to finish off the final leg of maximizing the education for the children of Holden.  LPA are experts at this.  One shot to pass this; if it fails, there is no second chance.

Mr. Challenger opened up the meeting for discussion purposes.

Chairman Renzoni thanked the Committee for the presentation.  He said he has been following the progress of the Committee for several years.  He asked how the 55.89% State reimbursement dropped to 49%.   Mr. Challenger explained the caps placed on certain portions of the project (site, a limit of sq.ft. construction costs and FF&E) by the state lower the reimbursement.  These caps will mean that the Town will need to make up a cost difference above the caps, which will lower the reimbursement savings to 49%.  Mr. Challenger said that the three points earned by the green energy and maintenance plan equate to approximately $1.5M in savings to the project.

Sel. Ferguson commended the hard work of the Committee.  He asked if the MSBC would be willing to submit to a review before the Planning Board.  He expressed concerns about the limited parking on site.  He also said he would like abutters concerns addressed.

Mr. White said that a planning board review was part of the process.  The current design has approximately 50% more parking than currently at the school.  Additionally, the Committee has met with abutters on several occasions to hear their concerns and address them upfront.

Sel. Ferguson inquired about test borings on site.  Mr. Challenger said that test borings have been conducted on site and the building has been sited appropriately on solid ground and not on the current soccer fields that are made of fill.  There will be no surprises on site.  

Sel. Ferguson inquired about the payment schedule to the contractor and punch lists.  Will there be a payment schedule in the Town’s favor?  He wanted to make sure that the project the Town signs up for it the project it gets.

Mr. White responded that monies can be withheld when services/materials are not delivered.  However, the Town has an advocate in Mr. Kaczmarek who will deliver a sound project.

Mr. Makela inquired about the demolition of the existing building after the new building is constructed.  Demolition of the building and reimbursement of the demolition are included in the estimate.  Mr. Pagano said that over 1M in hazardous waste/asbestos disposal is included in the project estimate.  Mr. Makela said that with a building shortage in town, was it prudent to destroy the whole building.  He suggested saving the newer part of the old school.

Mr. Challenger said this option was explored but was declined by the Town Manager because it would require Town offices be relocated from the center of town.  Additionally, it was determined that it would not be an appropriate facility to house the DPW due to safety issues involving children.  If the building were to be saved it would cost millions to renovate, to make it useful.  The Town has no interest in the building and could not identify a use for it.

Mr. White added that the Town is building a very expensive new school behind the old 50-year old school.  It would not be aesthetically appealing or very productive.  Additionally, the new building has been planned around the demolition of the old school.

Chairman Renzoni said that the decision to not retain the old school was made by the Town Administration over a year ago and has been resolved. This was not a decision the MSBC made.

Mr. Alan Berg said that he concurred with Mr. Makela comments adding that it seemed that a building valued at 7M was being sacrificed for a soccer field.

Mr. Challenger said the project would be far more expensive to modify the building in order to save it.  Modifications to bring a portion of the building up to code would cost between $8-10M and the Town could not justify spending this money on a building it has no use for.  He acknowledged that this concern had been raised by Mr. Makela before and that all uses and costs for the building had been considered.

Mr. Mancini asked about the payback on the photovoltaic solar panel process.  

Mr. White said that 1Kw of solar energy has a value on the open market.  The payback would be approximately 8 years.  The system will have a 25-30 year lifespan and the Committee considered it to be a wise decision.  It will cost approximately $600,000 to install and earned the project 2 reimbursement points from the state worth approximately 1M.

Mr. Mancini asked about FF&E.  Mr. Challenger said that currently, the FF&E only has two line items; furniture and equipment.  These purchases are years away.  Computer equipment purchased now will be obsolete in 2 years.

Mr. Mancini asked about projected energy costs to run the new building.  

Mr. Challenger said that energy operating costs cannot be compared to the Public Safety Building which operates 24/7/365.  School square footage will be more energy efficient to run; there will just be more of it to run.

Sel. Lavigne asked how the solar energy will work in the summer.  Mr. White said that a credit could be achieved in the summer months and applied toward the building in the school year.  This is still a new concept to Jim Robinson and will work itself out.

Mr. Challenger said it will be a 20-year borrowing at an estimated 3%.  Mr. White commented that the Town of Holden will never borrow the entire $54M for the project; the state will reimburse its portion monthly through its pro pay system.  This will save the Town thousands in carrying costs.  Only the expenditure of $27M will be approved at Town Meeting.

Sel. Jumonville asked about the $275 square footage cap.  Mr. White said it is impossible to build a school for this price.  The estimate for the square footage in the new building is $341/sq.ft. which is an overage of $6M.  Mr. Pagano said that the $275 is a tool to control the state’s contribution.  This cap has been set at the MSBA since 2008 and it applies to every school project being reimbursed by the MSBA.  Mr. Challenger quoted several middle school building projects square footage costs that are currently in the MSBA program.  They have all exceeded the $275 sq.ft. cap and have in fact exceeded the estimate for the Mountview Middle School.  The $275 sq.ft. cap is an unattainable number to build a school with.

Mr. White said the project’s only cost associated with installing gas through NSTAR will be paving and police detail.  NSTAR will run the lines free of charge in anticipation of bringing new residential customers on board along the way.  

Sel. Ferguson confirmed that the project will pay all building fees and permits associated with the project.  He asked if the school district gets the school energy credit generated from the solar panels or does this credit belong to the Town.  He said he needed to hear from Town Manager Kelly and Mr. Robinson from the HMLD.  He expressed concern that the other regional towns might benefit from energy being generated from a project paid for by Holden taxpayers.

Mr. Challenger encouraged the Town to get feedback from Mr. Robinson and Ms. Kelly.  Mr. White said that the Town helps to fund the school district budget.  He said the Town’s peak energy needs to occur in the summertime and this energy from the school will benefit the HMLD during its peak buying times.  Sel. Ferguson suggested creating some type of partnership between the District and the Town and hoped that it is as good as a deal as it sounds.

Mr. Jim Dunn asked what the contingency was for the project.  Mr. Challenger said there are various contingencies built into various stages of the project; an inflation contingency, a 7% design contingency, a 4% owner’s contingency. Mr. White said that as the project gets closer to the final design, the design contingency will decrease.  He said these costs will come down over time.   Town Manager Kelly said the total life cost of the project at 27M at 3% over 20 years will be difficult to determine because the project will be paid for with several borrowings.  The average percentage will be 3%.

Sel. Ferguson said he wanted the people to be armed with the facts from a mailing through the light bill.  He said that we must move forward as a town and accept the results as a town and wants people to be informed.

Mr. Challenger said it was great that the Selectmen were willing to get the word out through the Light Department bills.  He said the Committee was more than willing to prepare an informational flyer to be sent out in the March bills.

Sel. Ferguson inquired if a Democratic primary was held by the State on April 30th if the MSBC would consider moving its ballot vote to that date.  The Town Clerk has recommended that the Selectmen move the Town Election to the April 30th Primary Election date as well.  Mr. Berg said that Town bylaws dictate that Town Elections must be held the second Monday in May.

Mr. Challenger said the Committee would take the suggestion under advisement.

Sel. Jumonville asked the Committee to confirm that the reimbursement money is locked in place.  Mr. Challenger said that the MSBA will confirm this reimbursement rate on April 3rd.

The Finance Committee will take a position on the project the week of February 18th.

The Selectmen recessed for 5 minutes at 8:50PM.

Members of the MSBC and Finance Committee left the meeting.  MSBC Chairman Challenger remained for the Board meeting.
  • Discussion of Building Project
The Board discussed the borrowing mechanism for funding the project.  Ms. Kelly informed the Board that the state will dictate how the borrowing will occur.  Sel. Jumonville encouraged the MSBC to advertise its cause by running a DVD of tonight’s presentation on Channel 11 and sending a flyer home through the HMLD bills.  Mr. Challenger concurred adding that he will also make a presentation of the project to the School Committee on February 25th.

Sel. Lipka stated that the installation of the photovoltaic panels in the project will benefit the Town from a town-owned building.  Mr. Challenger agreed adding that he was sure an agreement would be reached between the Town, the Light Department and the District regarding the distribution of the energy generated from these panels.  However, he reminded the Selectmen that the PV/energy issue was a tiny part of a very large project.

Chairman Renzoni stated that he felt the decision wasn’t about whether he could or could not afford the project; it was about the Board taking a position on whether the project is in the best interest of Holden.  The biggest draw for Holden is its school system; this is why people move to town.  The Finance Committee is not the final letter of the law.  He encouraged the Selectmen to take a position on the project tonight.

A motion was made by Sel. Lavigne and seconded for discussion purposes by Sel. Lipka to endorse the Mountview School Building project as presented.

Sel. Lavigne said that while the project involves a lot of money it is an incredible opportunity.  The State is handing the town a 50% off coupon.  There is never a good time to borrow or build but it is better when someone else is picking up half the tab.

Sel. Lipka said the vote has to come from the people and can’t be influenced, but as an elected official, he has a responsibility to take a position and let residents know how he feels.  He said it is incumbent upon the MSBC to do its due diligence and inform the public of the facts.  He said he would like to wait to take a position until the Board’s February 19th meeting.

Sel. Ferguson said that there are 54 days before the Special Town Meeting on April 8th and he doesn’t feel a great rush to vote to approve/endorse the project.  He said he would like feedback from the Finance Committee and Mr. Robinson of the HMLD.  He said he was not going to tell people how to vote and would not take a position tonight.  He commended the MSBC for its work, which has been straightforward and transparent.

Sel. Jumonville said that people will pay what they can afford.

Sel. Lavigne said he was not telling people how to vote.  He said the project has been out there for four years and shouldn’t be pushed off any longer.

Chairman Renzoni commented that the numbers for the project can only get better.  They will not increase and will not change for the worse before the Special Town Meeting.  He said the Board needs to move forward and that taking a position will show faith in the Building Committee and the project.  It is about where the Town is going and how it is going to get there.  He said if things change between now and the Special Town Meeting, the Board can revisit the vote.


The motion passed unanimously.
  • Adjournment
Motion by Sel. Lavigne, seconded by Sel. Jumonville, it was UNANIMOUSLY VOTED TO ADJOURN THE FEBRUARY 11, 2013 MEETING AT 9:30PM.

APPROVED: March 4, 2013