M/cloudy
54°
M/cloudy
Hi 67° | Lo 36°

ConVal School District

Work starts, but what’s next?

Board members approve $277K for phase one, but timeline remains unclear

  • ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ella Teevan)

    ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design.

    (Staff photo by Ella Teevan) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ella Teevan)

    ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design.

    (Staff photo by Ella Teevan) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Construction is under way at ConVal High School’s parking lot, as shown in this photograph taken Wednesday. Some School Board members were upset that the project had already begun, since, they said, the board had not yet given its explicit approval for the funding. The board retroactively authorized the project to start at Tuesday’s meeting.

    Construction is under way at ConVal High School’s parking lot, as shown in this photograph taken Wednesday. Some School Board members were upset that the project had already begun, since, they said, the board had not yet given its explicit approval for the funding. The board retroactively authorized the project to start at Tuesday’s meeting. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ella Teevan)

    ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design.

    (Staff photo by Ella Teevan) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ella Teevan)

    ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design.

    (Staff photo by Ella Teevan) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ella Teevan)
  • ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ella Teevan)
  • Construction is under way at ConVal High School’s parking lot, as shown in this photograph taken Wednesday. Some School Board members were upset that the project had already begun, since, they said, the board had not yet given its explicit approval for the funding. The board retroactively authorized the project to start at Tuesday’s meeting.
  • ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ella Teevan)
  • ConVal High School's parking lot has begun to undergo rebuilding, despite some disagreement among the School Board about the project's funding and design. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ella Teevan)

PETERBOROUGH — Construction on the ConVal High School parking lot has begun, a situation that sparked debate at the ConVal School Board meeting Tuesday. Several members of the Board, including Myron Steere of Greenfield, argued that the project should not have begun without the School Board’s explicit approval of funding for the work, which he said had not yet been given.

At the project’s inception in 2009, the board envisioned the construction to encompass only repaving and lighting, and when voters approved the budget in March, the amount of funding allocated to the project was $350,000. After developing a Request for Proposal with Nobis Engineering in early 2013, however, the Board received bids in June that put the project cost at $864,000, due to the unforeseen additional cost of replacing the subgrade beneath the asphalt.

The state of the materials beneath the parking lot was “one of the biggest surprises,” Marian Alese, business administrator for the ConVal School District, told the board Tuesday. “It looks like the subgrade is going to have to be completely removed and completely replaced.”

Board member Rich Cahoon of Antrim said the additional cost comes as a result of the board finalizing the project’s scope after it had already settled upon $350,000 for the project, instead of the other way around. Stewart Brock, the Francestown representative on the board, explained: “Each time this came up, we continued with a basic assumption of a number. We didn’t pause to recheck the figure. We own that part for basically letting it go, and not asking.”

Alese added that the board “kept putting off evaluation of what was under the parking lot. ... At some point in time, somebody should have said, ‘We need to go do some test bores.’”

The current scope of work being undertaken in the parking lot includes demolition and installation of base materials; installation of pavement, sidewalks and curb; and installation of electrical conduit, light pole bases and loam, according to Alese. These steps constitute phase one of the project, which the board decided in June to split into two phases after discovering the increased cost. Phase one will cost an estimated $277,954, according to Alese’s memo to the board.

Steere voiced a concern that the board had never formally approved the $277,954 for phase one. He was upset, he said, because he had been under the impression that the board would know the costs of each of the phases before proceeding with the project. Alese said, “We started the project because we were under the assumption that we had the authorization to move forward.” Half of the board members thought the board had approved phase one already, she clarified, and the other half disagreed in June.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Steere made a motion to approve the $277,954 for the implementation of phase one, which passed, with members Cahoon and David Martz of Temple opposing.

The launching of phase one has also raised safety concerns with some board members, including Cahoon, who has two children who attend ConVal High School. “I actually don’t think this phase addresses the most significant safety concern,” he said. “The real safety concern is the student drivers,” who tend to “come booking in from the road” and cut across parking spots, he said. “Nothing in this first stage does anything at all to address that....It still seems backwards to me. At the end of having spent this $277,000, we still won’t have a [safe] parking lot.”

Board member Erik Thibault of Peterborough made the point that Nobis Engineering had recommended the construction of a drop-off lane first, rather than addressing student drivers in the parking lot itself, as part of phase one. “If the engineers say this is the way we should do it, at what point are any of us experts to say, ‘I think [some other way] is the way we should do it’?” he said.

Matthew Craig, the board member from Sharon, agreed, stating that the drop-off lane will have the most traffic. “I understand the problem of students zipping around in main parking lot, but I understand the rationale of having drop-off lane first,” he said.

Although phase one is in progress, the eventual outcome of the construction project has yet to become clear, according to Alese. By phone Wednesday, she said that the timeline, cost, and scope of the project will depend in part on the formal results from additional test bores for the rest of the parking lot. These results, she said, “will give specific information about what has to be done under the existing asphalt.” The two bids the board already received assumed that everything under the asphalt would have to be replaced, she said. However, it is possible that the new test bores will indicate that some areas do not need replacing, resulting in a lower cost than projected.

Additionally, Alese said she could offer no certainty about when the project would end because the rest of its funding is not yet secured. The board has the option to use a Local Government Center refund of $638,966 toward parking lot costs, which would fund the majority of the project. If it chooses not to do so, Alese says, the board has access to a capital reserve account, but “it probably doesn’t have all the money.” If the board cannot fund the rebuilding of the parking lot, she says, “We’ll have to make do, and do whatever kind of [surface] patchwork we can.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, board member Joel Green of Peterborough summed up the uncertainty of the project’s future: “Where do we go [after phase one], given [the parking lot] is crumbling?...When does phase two start, and how do we get there? I just want to raise the question; I’m not expecting an [immediate] answer.”

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.