Our Opinion: A new Taconic
Pittsfield’s School Building Needs Commission chose the most expensive option in addressing the needs at Taconic High School, but more importantly, it chose the best option. The Massachusetts School Building Authority must now live up to its end of the bargain.
By a vote of 16-1, the commission chose to pursue an entirely new Taconic at a cost of $125 million, according to the design consulting firm. Construction being what it is those costs will go up and then there is determining exactly what the state will or will not cover. The state is supposed to cover 80 percent of approved school projects but the devil is in the details.
Carl Franceschi, president of the consultants Drunmeny Rosane Anderson of Waltham, told the commission Monday night that the state will not pay for all site work and its reimbursement per square foot historically "lags reality" in terms of construction cost. There is no excuse for this lack of realism, but it does mean that the city will not get 80 percent of the funding for a project that is likely to cost more than $125 million.
Still, an entirely new school is the best approach for dealing with a 45-year-old school built on the cheap and falling farther below state standards with each passing year. Renovating the school at $36 million would constitute a patch job not worth the cost. Renovations and an addition at $92 million and modest renovations with new construction at $124 million would be nearly as expensive as a new school without the same bang for the buck. A new state-of-the-art school with a vocational focus would not only benefit Pittsfield students, it could draw students from around the region.
City and state officials must pressure the building authority to provide a reasonable reimbursement, but the city’s contribution to the cost will pay dividends. Unlike the current Taconic, which was barely built for the short run, a school built properly for the long run will be worth the investment by Pittsfield and by the state.