Town officials still hope to complete the window replacement project at North Intermediate School. But to do so, the project will have to be approved by voters for a second straight year.
After residents approved the funding of the project during the 2012 Annual Town Meeting, selectmen learned at Monday night’s meeting that the cost estimate came in significantly higher than the number approved by voters.
According to Tony Sievers of Diversified Project Management, there are several reasons for the cost difference for the project, which would be partially funded by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
One of the major factors is that the estimates were based on the window replacement project done at Shawsheen Elementary School. The town received a price far below market value for that project and as a result cost projections were off by a wide margin.
“We came to the conclusion that you had an unbelievable price at Shawsheen,” said Sievers. “Everything came to your benefit with that project. You got a cost well before market value at that time. The contractor was very hungry, willing to take the project at the lower price so they could keep their people going. If you set that as your benchmark, you can see why you would have a difference.”
Rather than the approximately $800,000 approved by voters last year, the town will have to come up with about $1.5 million for the project. About half of that total will be reimbursed.
Board of Selectmen chairman Mike Newhouse said the town’s net cost for the project will be about $740,645. But the town must raise the cost of the entire project before it can be approved for MSBA reimbursement, thus it must be voted on again at Town Meeting.
“There’s no getting around the fact that the price has increased dramatically,” said Newhouse. “But the reality is that the appropriation from May 2012 will be sufficient to pay for the project.”
The MSBA approval required to be completed this year to remain eligible, but the organization is willing to work with the town if they can receive approval from voters.
According to Sievers, the town must provide demonstration that it has the funds within 90 days of a January 30 MSBA review meeting. Though the May 4 Annual Town Meeting comes beyond that deadline, the MSBA said it would still meet its guidelines.
If voters approve the project again this year, construction would likely be completed in the summer months of 2014.
“If we don’t do anything, we’ll still have a need for windows and doors and the price is only going to go up. The dollar that you don’t spend today becomes more expensive tomorrow,” said selectman Judy O’Connell. “Regardless of this unfortunate news, I don’t see any stance other than to support this project.”