WILLIAMSTOWN -- Superintendent Rose Ellis told the town's Finance Committee this week that the Mount Greylock Regional School District is pursuing a "fiscally responsible" school building project.
"We want to be very careful on the impact on the community, our taxpayers, our seniors here," she said.
The district has submitted six statements of interest (SOIs) since 2006 to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), which partners with districts across the state to provide reimbursement and assistance for school construction projects. The district moved one step closer to replacing its 1960 middle and high school building last Wednesday, when it was welcomed into the MSBA's eligibility period for the first time.
On Tuesday, both Ellis and School Committee Chairwoman Carrie Greene stressed the need for a smaller, more affordable building that could open as early as 2017.
"It's a valid concern throughout every community -- if you build a new building will you be able to maintain it? And yes absolutely, the MSBA will make sure we're in a position to maintain the school," Greene said.
A feasibility study -- which includes the hiring of a project manager, schematic designs and creating several building options -- could cost somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million, Ellis said.
Greene and Ellis estimated the project reimbursement rate to be 55 percent, which the district received in a 2009 project to replace the school's boilers. The final cost to the two towns would also be leveraged with district funds and a $25,000 donation promised by Williams College.
"Then the cost would be split between Williamstown and Lanesborough, which is a 60-40 split based on enrollment," Greene said.
Williamstown and Lanesborough residents could be asked to fund the study at annual town meetings in the spring of 2014, Ellis said.
Both Greene and Ellis stated the district is exploring ways to increase the reimbursement rate.
The district could receive an increase in 6 percent by expanding the district from grades 7-12 to a pre-K-12 district, Greene said.
The district explored the possibility of expanding the region this past winter with the help of consultants. School Committee members have voted to continue studying the complex issue, Greene said.
"For now, the building project will take priority," she said.
Ellis stated there is a "strong urgency" surrounding the project, and pointed to a number of inadequacies in the building, including a lack of insulation.
"We spent $276,000 to heat the building last year, and we walked around in coats," she said. "We are really wasting taxpayers money and energy."
Other issues with the building include failing pneumatic controls for boilers, mold issues that require classrooms be powerwashed every summer, and spaces not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
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