Following their unanimous decision to approve option C in April, the School Committee heard an update on the school building project Tuesday night.
“Nothing is locked in stone,” said Derek Osterman, project manager of Colliers, who briefed the committee on potential cost-saving measures regarding “bonuses” that represent additional state funds for the project. “Specifically, it looks like there is some support likely around sustainable and high-performance design.” He went on to say, “There may be up to 10 percent bonus points available.”
Each bonus point represents 1 percent of the costs for an approved school construction project that the state will pay for.
“That’s something exciting to consider and well timed,” he said. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”
In addition to the potential bonus money, Alyson Powell, chair of the School Committee, mentioned possible state legislation that could help the town save more money on the actual construction. Under the current rules and timeline, the town must lock in a contractor by December 2023 for the project (which would mean locking in an estimate). However, there is legislation being discussed in the statehouse that would move that deadline back until the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2024).
“There’s hope that construction costs, which have skyrocketed over the last year and a half, are starting to head back downward,” Powell said. “And the idea is that relaxing some of the time restrictions would give districts some breathing room and let some of those costs come down from their all-time peaks.”
One of the next big steps in the process is creating a “robust communications and outreach campaign over the spring and headed into the summer,” according to Osterman. “We’ve put together a draft plan of bringing on a communications consultant to help us with some of the final pieces with going back out to the community.”
He went on to say he understands that the summer can be a difficult time to get residents’ attention or get them to meetings. However, with the Town Council’s task of finalizing a bond amount number for a November ballot by August, he, along with members of the School Committee, mentioned wanting the input of EG residents.
It’s not the first time community engagement has been addressed regarding this project. In addition to the two general public forums in March, the school building committee held walk-throughs at each building to show residents the state of school buildings.
The School Committee will meet again on Tuesday, June 20, at 6 p.m. in the Cole Middle School library.