To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Most residents of Lanesborough and Williamstown recognize that something needs to be done with the old and outdated Mt. Greylock middle-high school building. Even Ray Jones Jr. in his Jan. 30 letter to the editor acknowledged the aging building "is in need of some work." Given this broad consensus, the logical first step would be to study the issue and obtain some competent advice on what the options are going forward. This is exactly what is being done.
The Massachusetts State Building Authority (MSBA) has finally accepted Mt. Greylock into the feasibility study phase (the first phase) of its building project pipeline. The feasibility study involves the hiring of a project manager and an architect to provide advice on many facility related issues including what type of project should be considered, what alternatives may be available, whether a renovation, remodeling or rebuilding project is appropriate and what the expected costs of the various alternatives will be.
Perhaps what is best about being accepted into the commonwealth’s school building pipeline is that the MSBA will now pay for approximately 55 percent of the feasibility study and any building project that may be recommended in the future. The towns, of course, will always have the option to say no to any project that may be recommended, but without the feasibility study we’re left making decisions in the dark.
Many towns and cities in Berkshire County are going through similar situations. Great Barrington has hit a snag with its school renovation project but hopefully some compromise can be reached. In contrast, just last year Adams-Cheshire completed a building project with the MSBA and moved into a beautifully renovated Hoosac Valley middle-high school.
Feasibility studies, like the one proposed for Mt. Greylock, are already under way in Pittsfield for Taconic High School and in North Adams for Conte Middle School. Meanwhile, at Mt. Greylock, the old building is constantly requiring repairs that drain taxpayers’ money but do not qualify for reimbursement from the commonwealth. Recently the Williamstown building inspector ordered that no further theater productions be performed in the school’s auditorium until the ancient fire curtain is replaced. The School Committee has already authorized the replacement of the fire curtain at a total anticipated cost of around $80,000. But this is just a short-term solution.
It is estimated that the bottom line cost to Lanesborough to perform the feasibility study will be $93,000. This would be paid over two or three fiscal years. That’s a lot less than a new town fire truck would cost and not much more than the school is going to spend on a new fire curtain.
I don’t pretend to know what type of remodeling, renovation or building should be done at Mt. Greylock. But I sure do hope we take the MSBA up on its offer to help fund the feasibility study so that we can all understand our options and make good decisions going forward.
CHRIS S. DODIG
The writer is a member of the Mt. Greylock School Committee.