'Rapid' timeline set in school building project
BY JOSH FARNSWORTH
The Sutton School Committee and Town Administrator Jim Smith presented an aggressive schedule for the school building project to the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night with the aim of bringing project design and cost to a town meeting vote next May.
During a joint meeting of the selectmen and school committee, Project Manager Jon Winikur of Strategic Building Solutions outlined the schedule after months of working closely with engineers conducting a feasibility study on the structure and the Sutton School Building Committee.
The feasibility study indicated that the 60-year-old high school and 54-yearold middle school are in need of drastic improvements.
"They are old buildings that have served the town well in their time," said Winikur. "There is a need right now to modernize and freshen up the space here in Sutton."
The feasibility study also called for upgrades and modernizations to be made to the core building (which is 20 years old), but noted it remained very functional.
Winikur told the boards that a tight schedule was necessary for meeting many Massachusetts School Building Authority guidelines in time for a review at an MSBA board meeting in November.
Prior to the review, Winikur and the School Building Committee want to hold an informational session for town residents after several development options are drafted by project architects. Alth ough the step is not necessary, both parties are pushing for a mid-October meeting to get public input on the initial designs.
Winikur said the session would more than likely push the MSBA review back to their next scheduled meeting in January. He admitted doing so would likely extend the next steps in the project - refining the preferred option, providing a cost estimate and receiving MSBA final approval of the option - beyond the May town meeting date.
If the project moved past May town meeting, Smith said the town may need to hold a special town meeting for voter approval or ask the MSBA for an extension until the Fall 2010 town meeting. Legally, the town has 120 days to receive voter approval following MSBA signing off on the project.
"A lot is going to happen very rapidly," said Smith. "The state has come on board with this process and we will likely have to try and get onto the May town meeting agenda."
Winikur reviewed a list of project goals during the timeline. Project specs called for designs to "provide modern educational space," "address pressing safety and security needs" and "utilize architecture that is simple and elegant" staying within the character of Sutton.
"Nothing overstated," he said.
Other goals highlighted by the School Building Committee were to remain conscious of short-term (project) and long-term (operating) costs, preserve the setting of a single campus, and become environmentally sensitive using "sustainable building practices."
"[Environmental sensitivity] will not drive the project, but we want to incorporate green initiatives as they make sense," said Winikur.
With a feverish pace set in place for the building project, Winikur is unsure that if the entire timeline falls apart Sutton would be in line to get another shot at funding the project. Selectman Kevin Geraghty said it might be a "one-bite-of-the-apple" chance to receive state aid for a school improvement project as vast and expensive as this.
Winikur said that getting to the timeline planning process itself is an accomplishment few towns and cities in Massachusetts have attained.
"For better or for worse, Sutton had been chosen as one of the few in the state to move ahead," he said. "It means that your needs are compelling enough to need help. On the positive side, you will be ahead of the pack in getting reimbursement for the project."