Friday, September 17, 2010

School Building Committee Meeting- 9/15/10

Because there has been very little publicity about the activities of the School Building Committee (SBC), I decided to attend their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday night to find out what is happening. As I expected, there were very few town residents in attendance (total = 2, counting myself).

Meeting minutes have not been posted on the SBC website ( since March 16 and as of Wednesday afternoon there were no additional hardcopy meeting minutes available at the Town Clerk’s office. I find this lack of meeting minutes very disturbing given the new Massachusetts Open Meeting Law which became effective July 1.  According to the official guide from the Attorney General’s office…. the law requires that existing minutes must be created and approved in a timely manner.

Meeting Highlights

The first item on the SBC meeting agenda was approval of SBC meeting minutes for May 13, June 2, June 17 and August 19.  A little less than the “timely manner” as required by the new Open Meeting Law.  I'm guessing that this agenda item may have been a direct response to Mark Gold’s request to Christine Swanson (SBC co-chair) at Monday’s Select Board meeting (9/13/10) to post overdue SBC meeting minutes.  With the current town website situation I would not want to guess when these “newly approved” minutes might be available online.  Hopefully, the content, completeness and quality of these latest meeting minutes will be improved vs. the minutes posted for the November 2009 time period when the MSBA to SBC correspondence was hidden from public view.

Design Update

Exterior Walls/ Flooring/ Interior Walls/ Paint/ Glazing and other material choices affecting cost that have been made by project work groups were reviewed with the SBC. These choices are needed to prepare the full project specification package. Other choices such final wall or carpet color can be changed later since they are not likely to affect final cost.

Project Schedule Update

There will be some early project work in Nov/ Dec for the relocation of existing school utilities including phone, gas, water and power lines. This early work is necessary because most of these utilities are connected to the current HS through areas where the new school will be built.

This early project construction work will create a signficant loss of HS parking spaces resulting in the need to identify other nearby alternatives and/or the creation of a new temporary lot. Bliss Tennis Courts parking and the west side of the Longmeadow Shops were mentioned as possible choices.

Feb 2011- Start demolition of the existing school department building wing

May 2011- New HS building construction begins


Here is an interesting question…. The School Department will be relocated to space available in Wolf Swamp Road School and Center School after this space has been renovated. The original plan called for the School Dept to relocated to existing space in the 1971 wing after it had been renovated this fall.

What happened to the original plan? It looks like there will be additional costs involved with this revised plan….

How much will the Center School/ Wolfswamp School office renovation cost and will that cost be absorbed by the HS building project?

The School Dept will be relocated for an extended period of time….up to three years according to a MassLive report. It sounds like there may be a significant cost involved with this renovation.  These costs should not be absorbed by the current school or town operating budgets and should be included with the new school building project.

Other Agenda Items

During this discussion a number of ideas were suggested by SBC members. Highlights included the following:
  • Interest was expressed in the incorporation of a cell phone tower within the new building structure as a means to develop rental income for the town (or school dept). One estimate of potential revenue from tenant wireless carrier(s) was $40K/ year.
  • One committee member- Roland Joyal highlighted the fact the recent local new high school project bids (Putnam HS in Springfield + Wilbraham/ Hampden Regional HS) have come in much lower than originally estimated because of the poor economy and low construction activity. (According to the Springfield Republican the winning bid for the WHRHS project was $53.6 M vs. original estimate of $82M). Mr. Joyal predicted that the bids for the new Longmeadow HS project will also be much lower than the $78 million estimate. He recommended that the SBC consider other project uses for the predicted savings. He proposed inclusion of a artificial turf field to to replace the current turf field at the football stadium. One cost estimate for this option was $750,000.

    The current high school practice field (natural grass) will likely need significant renovation after building construction is completed and there are project monies being included for this purpose. It was suggested during this discussion to consider making this an artificial turf field rather than a natural grass field.
  • Co-chair Mr. Barkett remarked that these items would need to be included in the “add alternates” section of the bid package for the project. An “add alternate” is a secondary more expensive option that may be considered during the construction phase.

The project design team has been conducting “value engineering” meaning a “systematic application of recognized techniques which identify the function of a product or service, and provide the necessary function reliably at lowest overall cost.”

Longmeadow voters approved the construction of a new HS building project with an estimated cost of $78.1 million. If the winning project bid comes in at a lower price tag say $62 million, the SBC should not take that as a cue to include additional elements (ex. artificial turf field(s)) because there is money available to be spent without the need for approval by town voters.

I believe that the SBC has a “fidiciary” responsibility to town residents to build the new high school as originally approved by town voters at the lowest possible cost.


I am planning to attend the SBC monthly meetings on a regular basis and post my meeting "notes" here on the Buzz to help town residents keep abreast of the high school project activities.

As always, I welcome SBC co-chairs to "set the record straight" if there are errors in my reporting or commentary.  Other town residents are also invited to participate.