Mount Greylock Regional School Committee OKs borrowing for high school project


WILLIAMSTOWN — A proposed $64.8 million high school renovation project is one step closer to approval.

During a joint meeting of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee and the School Building Committee on Thursday evening, the School Committee authorized the necessary borrowing for the project .

Current estimates show the local share of the cost is between $31.5 million and $35.3 million.

The next action will be taken by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is due to vote Jan. 27 on committing state funds to the project. The state's share of the cost of the project will be slightly more than $30 million.

In Williamstown, taxpayers would pick up 67.7 percent of the local share of the cost with a property tax rate increase of between $1.42 and $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That would increase the average annual tax bill by $393 to $569.

The Lanesborough taxpayers' share of the local cost would be 32.3 percent, causing a tax rate increase of between $1.61 and $1.81 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or an average annual increase of the tax bill by $304 to $392.

The debt would be incurred by issuing bonds.

If the MSBA votes to commit the funds, both towns would need to vote to exclude the bond debt from the Proposition 2 1/2 tax increase limit by mid March. If either town fails to pass the debt exclusion, the project fails and the effort to replace the aging high school structure would have to begin anew.

The building on Cold Spring Road serves roughly 580 students from Grades 7 through 12. Aging HVAC systems, inadequate science labs and mold issues have been identified as major issues.

Jane Patton, chairwoman of the Williamstown Board of Selectmen, offered the town's support for the school building plan.

"The Board of Selectmen unanimously and unequivocally support the school building plan as proposed," she said. "The effort has been spectacular, and the time is now."

If both towns pass the debt exclusion, work would begin on demolishing the front section of the school and reconnecting the mechanicals to the remaining sections in August 2016, according to Trip Elmore, partner in construction management firm D&W Management Partners, the design firm engaged to handle the project. School would continue during the construction process in the remaining section of the school.

Following that, phase one would involve construction of the public spaces such as the cafeteria, auditorium and administrative offices. Phase two, set to start in early 2017, involves construction of the new classroom wing. Phase three will be the renovation of the existing gymnasium. Once those phases are complete, the students and staff would move into the new space, and the remains of the original structure will be demolished. The entire project is expected to be done by October 2018.

"The MSBA has been very supportive of our process and our level of detail," Elmore said.

He said he expects the MSBA to approve state funds to the job.

"If they were going to say no," he said, "we would have heard something by now."

According to Hugh Daley, a member of the School Building Committee and the Williamstown Board of Selectmen, the sooner the debt exclusion proposals are passed, the less the project will cost, due to increasing interest rates and the rising cost of construction materials.

"The sooner it passes, the better, so there are no delays and no increased costs," he said.


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