NORTH ADAMS -- The Massachusetts School Building Authority approved the schematic designs for the renovations of Silvio O. Conte Middle School and has agreed to pay up to 80 percent of the project's eligible expenses or up to a maximum of $23.1 million.
The project, which will turn the former middle school into an elementary school serving grades K-7, was approved during Wednesday's meeting of the MSBA in Boston. The total project budget is $29.7 million, with the city's share being about $6 million.
"There's a great sense of satisfaction that comes with this approval," Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said Wednesday. "We went in, briefly explained the project and were unanimously approved. There really wasn't any discussion. The MSBA really is extensively thorough and does its homework before these meetings. We heard several comments about what a great project this is."
He added, "I thank MSBA Executive Director Jack McCarthy, state Treasurer Steve Grossman and everyone we've worked with at the MSBA who have labored on this for the last couple of years. However, at this point, the ball is back in our court. We need to finalize the numbers and receive approval of the funding before we can go out and really get this done."
The next step in the process is for city and North Adams Public School officials to enter into a project scope and budget agreement, which will detail those two aspects and set the terms and conditions
"Once the details of the agreement are nailed down and it's signed, the city will have 120 days to receive local approval," Dan Collins, MSBA spokesman, said Wednesday. "After local approval is given, the MSBA and the city will enter into a project funding agreement, which governs the project."
Alcombright said the city's share of the project's cost may fluctuate during the project scope and budget agreement finalization, as there are several contingency costs that still need to be figured out.
"There's still a question about the retaining wall [at the bottom of Colgrove Park] and how much the cost and scope of the repairs to it will be," he said.
The mayor also said he plans to have architect Margo Jones and a representative from Strategic Building Solutions -- the Owner's Project Manager for the undertaking -- update the City Council on the project.
"We're tentatively scheduled for the meeting of Nov. 27," Alcombright said. "I want the council to understand what we will expect from them over the next few months. I've also invited the School Building Committee and the School Committee to attend this meeting."
The City Council will be asked in the coming months to approve a borrowing order for the project equal to the total cost of $29.7 million.
"The MSBA will reimburse us as the bills come in," Alcombright said. "It's a little different than the way it was done previously. What I need to figure out over the next few weeks is how that borrowing order will affect the city's cash flow and budget."
Conte was originally built in 1917 as Drury High School. The project will include the renovation of 77,300 square feet of the existing school and 2,700 square feet of new construction.
"The plans for the addition and renovation at the Conte Middle School are a direct result of a collaborative partnership forged by North Adams officials and the MSBA," Grossman said in a release. "We look forward to helping deliver an efficient, sustainable and cost-effective project that will meet the community's educational demands and save local and state taxpayer resources."
Renovations will address deficiencies in the roof, windows and building envelope, as well as electrical and mechanical systems. Additional parking spaces and outdoor play areas will also be constructed.
"The addition and renovation at Conte Middle School will remedy building deficiencies to create improved learning environments," McCarthy said in a release. "This project will enhance students' ability to excel in the classroom."