Town officials are preparing to begin construction on the new high school as early as the end of the month while reaction continues to pour in following the Department of Environmental Protection’s ruling that was announced early this week.
A July 27 deadline looms as another appeal is possible, but in the meantime officials are ready to move forward with the installation of artificial field turf and the demolition of the gymnasium as soon as possible.
“I’m just hopeful we can put all of these issues behind us and go forward with building a quality project for the students,” said Town Manager Michael Caira. “To me, it’s inevitable that there is going to be a high school project at this site. Any further delay is not going to stop the project, it’s just going to hurt the project.”
The 10-day filing period closes at the end of the business day next Friday, but Caira said it’s possible a potential appeal would not be received by the following Monday if it were sent that day. So by July 30, the Town Manager expects to know what the construction timeline will look like.
Suzanne Sullivan was one of the members listed in the previous 10-resident appeal. As a member of the Headwaters Streamteam, she was concerned with some of the wording in the plans approved by the Conservation Commission.
But Sullivan said the Superseding Order of Conditions that was issued by DEP addresses all of the group’s concerns. As a result, she said she does not plan on appealing the project this time around.
“We believe the project now finally is meeting the regulations and promoting the interests of the Wetlands Protection Act,” said Sullivan. “We accomplished exactly what we set out to do, which is to protect the wetland and waterways resources … In the end, as far as the wetland resources go, it is a better project than it was originally filed.”
George Lingenfelter was the spokesman for the 10-resident appeal. He said he believes there were positives that came out of the DEP ruling. In particular, Lingenfelter said it was positive to see changes around the Activities and Use Limitations (AUL) where oil is located in the ground.
Ligenfelter said the input of a Licensed Site Professional (LSP) was a step in the right direction, though he didn’t agree with the LSP’s assessment of the property.
Despite the positives, Lingenfelter said he has not yet decided whether he will pursue another appeal.
“I can’t answer that yet, because it’s a very complicated project and it’s not something you can decide overnight,” said Lingenfelter, who said he believes he discovered an unidentified well in the southern portion of the AUL area that the town identified as an irrigation system. “There are still many outstanding issues with the AUL.”
Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton said the DEP’s decision validated the work of the Conservation Commision and a long list of civil engineers and wetlands consultants.
Benton added that she is hopeful the appeals process is behind the town.
“We continue to respect the rights and resolve of people who may want to further appeal the project,” said Benton. “We also find it very worrying at this stage given the collective voice of the Town of Wilmington in overwhelmingly approving this project, along with the clear validation by MassDEP, that any further appeals are certain to result in significant cost and schedule impacts to the project.”
If the 10-day filing period closes with no further appeals, the first step is to begin mobilizing construction crews for site work that is necessary to install the field turf at Alumni Stadium. There would also be work to lay out construction site work and security around the demolition site at the gymnasium.
Caira said that process could begin immediately once the project is officially moving forward as approved.
Board of Selectmen chairman Michael Newhouse said the DEP ruling was as expected. He added that while it was a positive step forward, he is focused on the bigger picture.
“I don’t get too excited each step of the way. I will be very excited when the school is finished,” said Newhouse. “To me, the goal is to deliver the finished product to the residents, particularly to the kids, and to do that in a responsible and efficient way. It’s a long process, and I am just focused on the end game, which is to finish the project on time and on budget to the extent that is within our control.”