NORTH ADAMS -- City Councilors will be asked to give their final approval of a $29.7 million borrowing order for the renovation of the former Silvio O. Conte Middle School at a special meeting of the council on Tuesday, at 7:30 p.m., at City Hall.
While the city must initially borrow the full $29.7 million for the renovations, the city's share will only be $6.5 million, with the remainder being paid by the state School Building Authority (MSBA). Funds from the MSBA will be paid out as the renovation work is completed.
Initial approval for the bond was granted at the council's Jan. 22 meeting, with seven councilors voting in favor. Councilors John Barrett III and Marie Harpin cast the dissenting votes. The borrowing order requires two-thirds of the council's nine members to cast favorable votes in order for it to be approved.
During the Jan. 22 meeting, Barrett said he was opposed to approving the bond, as he thought there was a better solution than renovating Conte. He pointed to a 2007 study conducted by the New England School Development Council (NESDC), saying the mayor and the school committee had failed to follow its suggestions of creating a long-term facility plan for the school district.
Barrett also suggested that Sullivan and Greylock elementary schools could be renovated at a much lower cost of $22 million.
According to projected estimates prepared in February 2012 by Strategic Building Solutions and Margo Jones Architects, a renovation of Greylock Elementary School, which would require an addition, would cost $27 million. In addition, the city's original proposal, which called for a two-school solution that included the Conte and a renovation of Greylock Elementary was rejected by the MSBA.
Harpin said she was voting against the borrowing order because she was of the opinion the city couldn't afford the renovation right now.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright explained during the meeting how the city would absorb the $6.5 million debt, along with upcoming borrowing orders to bring the city into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act requirements and for capital improvements. Initially the city will only pay $102,500 each of the first two years on interest, with the debt payment rising in the third year to $370,000 annually.
"I have said from the beginning that we wouldn't do this if it would require a Proposition 2 1/2 override or a debt exclusion override," he said.
Councilor Lisa Blackmer said that despite hearing from several residents who spoke out against the funding at the start of the meeting, her experience has been that city residents are two-to-one in favor of the Conte project.
An informal poll, conducted on the Transcript's website over a two-day period, showed more people in favor of the project than not. Of the 835 individuals who responded, a total of 491, or 58.8 percent, voted in favor of the project, with 450 votes being cast in a category stating that Conte was the best solution.
Of the 344, or 41.2 percent, who responded that they were not if favor of funding the project, 309 individuals (37 percent) said they thought the city could come up with a better option, while only 36 votes (4.2 percent) said they were against funding the project because the city couldn't afford it.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email