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MSBA approves new Minnechaug project

Date: 8/3/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) voted to approve funding for the new Minnechaug Regional High School project on July 29. It is now up to the voters of Hampden and Wilbraham whether or not the new high school becomes a reality.

The MSBA staff recommended that $76,796,379 be the basis of the project scope and budget agreement and project funding agreement for the new Minnechaug, which will be part of the MSBA's Model School Program.

The reimbursement rate from the state comes in at 61.73 percent, or $47,406,405 of the total cost.

"The reimbursement rate is about what we expected. It's fantastic," Vinny Villamaino, chair of the Board of Selectmen in Hampden, said. "I think it's overwhelming [the MSBA voted to support our project]."

Villamaino said he was concerned about how the cost of the school that the towns have to bear will affect the elderly and others on fixed incomes, but added, "Everyone's gotta divvy it up. It's time [for a new school]."

The tax burden for the $29,389,974 not covered by the state reimbursement -- plus a swimming pool and district administration space, which are ineligible for funding from the MSBA - will only need to be paid if Hampden and Wilbraham voters approve the project at both Special Town Meetings and on ballots.

David Barry, chair of the Wilbraham Board of Selectmen, said the selectmen from both towns and the School Committee will discuss how to move forward at a joint meeting on Aug. 4.

"From my experience a number of people are very much in favor of [the new school project]," Barry told Reminder Publications. "We're getting a brand new high school - comparatively speaking, I think [the reimbursement rate] is a reasonable number."

"We're trying to do the right thing," Villamaino said. "We're gonna have to work hard on it and make sure everything gets done correctly. I think the new school is a good thing. It will be fabulous for both communities. Education is definitely the most important thing for our children."

The joint meeting between the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee, the Wilbraham Board of Selectmen and the Hampden Board of Selectmen will be taking place Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Minnechaug Media Center.