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Soule Road School project could be delayed

Date: 2/19/2015

WILBRAHAM – The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee is exploring the option to delay the proposed Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Accelerated Repair Program candidacy for the Soule Road Elementary School windows and doors project after it was found that the project exceeded the value of the building.

School Committee Chair Marc Ducey said at the committee’s Feb. 10 meeting that the Board of Selectmen would like the School Committee to reach out to the MSBA to delay the project for another year in order to “keep it in the pipeline.”

“That exceeds what Wilbraham was hoping for right now,” he added. “They understand the importance of the window project. They very much would like to accomplish the window project, but they have a couple other projects that are coming up that are going to require debt exclusions.” 

The initial cost of the project was roughly $1.6 million, Ducey said. However, because the building would be upgraded it would need to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) codes, which would increase the project’s cost by “just north of $800,000.” 

Including all soft costs as well as the price for the reconstruction, the project would likely end up being close to $3 million, he added. Soule Road is valued at $2.8 million. 

Ducey said if the MSBA Accelerated Repair Program, which has a 53.73 percent reimbursement rate, were delayed for a year, the Board of Selectmen would likely have a funding source available to use for the project at that time.

“It would also give us an opportunity to again look at the evaluation of the building and to also see if there are any waivers in the ADA projects that we would need to do,” he added.

 Ducey said the building was evaluated in December 2014 and will be reevaluated a year from then.

“They can only do it once a year legally,” he explained.

In other business, the School Committee chose to delay a vote to submit a statement of interest (SOI) to the MSBA for its Core Program regarding to a regional middle school construction or renovation project, recommended by the Middle School Task Force (MSTF).

“They are not suggesting we build or renovate any buildings,” Ducey, who is also chair of the MSTF, said. “What they are suggesting is that we explore the option and see what might be available to us.”

Superintendent of Schools M. Martin O’Shea said the deadline for submitting an SOI for the Core Program is in April. If an SOI is not submitted this year, the district could submit it the following year.

O’Shea said one factor to consider is whether it would be possible to submit the SOI under the deadline.

“We’re coming up on budget season and it’s been a while since we've had experience with a Core Program statement of interest,” he added.

A formal vote would take place at the committee’s next meeting. Prior to that vote, the district would prepare and gather information about the SOI process, Ducey said.

“If we want to act on that we should probably act on that very quickly or the next meeting at the latest,” he added.

Change at the middle school is inevitable due to a steady decline in enrollment, which the district facing, he noted.

“It requires a lot of challenges from an educational perspective, but it puts an incredible strain on our budget,” Ducey said. “So I think the notion of status quo, to leave it the same, can’t exist.”

Whether the district decides to change to a regional middle school model or leave both Wilbraham Middle School or Thornton W. Burgess Middle School in place, the programming would likely change because of the decline in enrollment, he added.

The decision to create a regional middle school ultimately lies with residents of both Hampden and Wilbraham with a vote anticipated to take place this fall, he said.