Elementary School Building Committee Refines Plans

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The Hopkinton Elementary School Building Committee pushed ahead last night as they continued their planning work on the proposed Fruit Street elementary school.

Schematic design reviews, budget refinements and Town Meeting timing made for a full schedule at the November 15th meeting, held at the school administration building on Hayden Rowe.

Preliminary plans call for a school opening to begin the September 2013 school year. To meet the schedule a Special Town Meeting to approve the project must happen in March. As the design and planning process works towards that date, many complicated and interrelated project components have to fall into place.

Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) funding is critical to the project budget. As a result, almost every decision made on the project has to be taken into consideration for its potential effect on the MSBA grant monies. At this point in the planning cycle, the possible funding percentage from the MSBA is in the low 40% range. As every detail is reevaluated and reworked the grant percentage can be readjusted upward. Final MSBA approval of the project must happen before the March 2011 special Town Meeting and is expected at the end of January 2011.

The budget review examined a number of line items that could be changed to lower the total cost of the project. As an example, the planned budget calls for a brick exterior. At the meeting, Design Partnership, the project architects, suggested using a fibrous cement siding material instead of the more expensive and traditional brick material, saving more than one million dollars on the building cost. The decision on that item is pending. The committee also ran through a number of options for managing the construction of the new school. A number of different construction management processes were discussed, each one having the potential for changing the project cost.

Design Partnership continued to make changes to the working site plan. A proposed spine road is being modified and parking considerations for large events are being added to the plan. To handle storm runoff, an ecologically friendly bio-retention system is being incorporated in the design. These systems are cheaper than traditional storm water management systems but require more land.

The committee is also looking to decouple their interest in the two existing playing fields on the site. The fields would remain a part of the plans but they would be owned and managed by another town entity.

Utility costs were another item that briefly made it to the floor during the meeting. Gas capacity and cost issues were described as minimal, while the electrical system infrastructure costs were put at $250,000

Digressing from the planning process discussions, the committee addressed a misleading observation that they say is finding its way into the general public. The notion that many people in town feel the new school is a “done deal” is false and without merit. In one voice the committee stated that they’re working on building the town’s school. The people of Hopkinton will have a chance to decide if they want it, or don’t want it, at the Town Meeting in March. It’s their decision.