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HWRSD trying again for Soule Road repair approval

Date: 1/2/2015

WILBRAHAM – The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee is making another attempt at voters’ approval for repairs at Soule Road School.

The School Committee voted unanimously on Dec. 22 to recommend a warrant article to the Wilbraham Board of Selectmen for placement on the 2015 Annual Town Meeting that would approve borrowing to replace the school’s doors and windows.

“The question is for the Selectmen,” Superintendent of Schools M. Martin O’Shea said. “Does it line up with other capital improvement goals?”

The same article was approved at the Aug. 18 Special Town Meeting; however the accompanying debt override did not pass at the Nov. 4 election. In order for the project to move forward, it would have to be approved at Town Meeting and at the polls.

School Committee Chair Marc Ducey said one of the major factors with the project is a 53.73 percent reimbursement under the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s (MSBA) Accelerated Repair Program with a March 1 deadline for the district to re-enter the program.

Originally, the Soule Road project was paired in the MSBA Accelerated Repair Program with a $2.3 million Wilbraham Middle School (WMS) roof project, which also failed at the Nov. 4 election.

O’Shea said due to the ongoing work of the Middle School Task Force related to the district’s enrollment decline and the possibility of one regionalized district middle school, the School Committee decided to focus exclusively on the Soule Road project.

“The Accelerated Repair Program is really reserved for buildings that are otherwise structurally sound and they meet our needs programmatically,” he added. “Soule Road remains a good candidate for the accelerated repair program.” 

The operations project manager from Expert Consult and the project’s architect from SLAM Collaborative would likely take four to six weeks to complete the schematics, O’Shea noted.

“The feasibility study that needs to get done on the window project are actually more involved than what you would find on the [WMS] roof [project], he added. “Timing is critical and I think we’ve got potentially lined up in May, a Town Meeting followed by town votes.

“One of the things that happened the last time was we had the [Special] Town Meeting in August and there wasn’t a town vote until November and I think in a lot of respects we lost momentum and we lost some communication in that long interim,” O’Shea continued

The MSBA would reimburse the roughly $54,000 schematic design portion of the project by 53 percent regardless of the outcome of town wide votes, Assistant Superintendent for Business Beth Regulbuto said.

School Committee member Peter Salerno said on the Nov. 4 ballot, the projects were listed as debt exclusion overrides without any explanation about the project or about the 53 percent reimbursement rate from the MSBA.

“I’m not sure that we did our job or that whoever drafted the resolution did their job in explaining,” he added. “If you took a look at every other resolution there was a explanation.”

The original $1.6 million estimate would be revised as the project moves forward, Ducey noted.

“It’s a need; we must do it,” Salerno said. “It’s costing us less than 50 cents on the dollar. If we don’t do it, I suppose years down the road we could reapply. I suppose we could maybe get it, maybe get in line or maybe. The MSBA is allowing us to move in line, which is a very important point. You don’t always get to the point where we are now.”