Mount Greylock Regional High School is in dire need of replacement and the pieces are in place to do so. An opportunity this good may never come again.
The Mount Greylock School Building Committee and other school officials in Lanesborough and Williamstown did their homework in putting together a $64.8 million renovation and construction project, with the Massachusetts School Building Authority agreeing to reimburse the towns for 60 percent of the cost. The building, with its smaller square footage and energy efficiency, is expected to reduce energy costs by 50 percent, will offer the latest in educational resources, and will be far more secure than the current high school, which is not a small matter in this day and age.
The current 55-year-old building is sprawling in size, energy inefficient, and has been falling apart in recent years. Just three years ago, an overwhelmed HVAC system led to such heat and humidity that the school had to be temporarily closed. Repairing the school would cost about $58 million, slightly less than the cost of the proposed project, the state would contribute no financing, and the school would still not meet current educational standards.
Williamstown will be responsible for 67.7 percent of the local share of the cost and Lanesborough 32.3 percent, and it is understandable that this gives taxpayers pause. However, good schools attract residents and businesses, raising property values and lowering the tax rate. The state's financial contribution, hard-won over 10 years, will go to other towns if Williamstown and Lanesborough pass.
Other Berkshire communities will long regret squandering a similar opportunity. Williamstown and Lanesborough should not. We strongly urge Williamstown residents to approve the debt exclusion on March 1 and Lanesborough residents to do the same on March 15. This will constitute not only a wise long-term investment in the towns' children but in the town itself.