Tewksbury School Estimated to Top $98.5M
TEWKSBURY -- The new elementary school project in town is estimated to cost over $98.5 million.
The Elementary School Building Committee announced the figure at its Thursday meeting. The total project cost, not just construction, is expected to be $98,503,725, according to Anne Marie Stronach, vice chair of the Elementary School Building Committee and member of the Board of Selectmen.
“That’s not the final cost to the taxpayers,” Stronach said. “That’s the cost we have to bill the project for.”
The cost estimate includes money already spent, including the $1.1 million appropriated at the May 2016 Annual Town Meeting for the feasibility study and schematic design, according to Town Manager Richard Montuori. The figure also does not take into consideration what the Massachusetts School Building Authority will reimburse. The construction cost for the project is estimated at $77,450,806.
The MSBA will have meetings with the committee on Jan. 2 and Feb. 13, and vote on whether or not to approve the project. If approved, the committee can get to work on preparing a ballot question for the next annual town election, and then for a vote at the next Annual Town Meeting.
The school is planned to accommodate about 790 students in grades two through four. In addition to this proposed new construction at the Ryan Elementary School site, the current Central Office is planned to be demolished and a new athletics field is also planned.
“If this project were not to move forward, we would still have to invest a ton of money into that site, and that would totally be on the taxpayers with no reimbursement whatsoever,” said Dennis Francis, the Elementary School Building Committee Chair and member of the School Committee.
Francis said the base reimbursement of eligible costs for the project is about 52 percent, but can go up to a little over 56 percent. With plans to make the building environmentally friendly and energy efficient, he expects the town will be offered a reimbursement on the higher end. He emphasized that all elements of the project are not eligible for reimbursement, like the new field proposed.
The Elementary School Building Committee also heard and voted in favor of the recommendations of the Athletic Fields Subcommittee. Brian Dick, who is a selectman and former School Committee member, chairs that subcommittee. The new school is planned to be built on the current field at Doucette Field, which has limitations, including only being able to accommodate football games. The current stadium also has dilapidated bleachers and no lights.
“This is an opportunity to be able to build a field for all sports,” Dick said. “If we don’t do anything at the current Doucette Field it will be a huge cost anyway or become a condemned field.”
An additional, smaller field is being proposed as a practice field, meant to replace the two softball fields that would be lost in this project. It can also serve as a warm up area for other sports, like field hockey, Dick said. A three-story, 6,700 square-foot fieldhouse is also planned at the site. Handicap accessibility is another significant improvement, according to Dick, something Doucette Field currently lacks.
“This is going to be such a special school. This is going to put Tewksbury on the map,” Dick said. “It’s going to anchor the town and just open up the door for younger families to come in and for business to come in.”
Residents will not have a sense of how their taxes will be impacted by the new school until sometime after that Feb. 13 MSBA meeting, should the project be approved. If everything goes as planned, the school will open its doors in the fall of 2022.
“I think the process has worked out well,” Montuori said. “The architect and the (owner’s project manager) have done a good job and it’s an excellent committee with a lot of expertise on there. I think the proposed plan from an educational standpoint is excellent.”
The next community forum on the project will be held on Thursday, Jan. 10 at Town Hall at 6 p.m. The committee’s next regularly scheduled meeting is set for Thursday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.