By: Tammy Daniels On: 11:34PM / Tuesday April 12, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A presentation by Margo Jones Architects and Strategic Building Solutions on the proposed school building project to the City Council on Tuesday veered little from recent ones to the public and School Committee, and many of the questions covered similar ground.
City councilors and residents quizzed representatives on the costs, efficiency and process. The four options presented stem from a $680,000 feasibility study approved in 2008 that was required for any project approval and reimbursement by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
The city is hoping the MSBA will allow a two-school project to fulfill the state's charge of finding educational solutions to 620 students. Of those options, the preferred one is the construction of a new Greylock School and the renovation of Conte Middle School, both to serve kindergarten through Grade 7.
But the proposed resurrection of the old Drury High School as an elementary school hasn't been welcomed by everyone.
"A fifth option does exist," said John Bedard of Meadow Street. "The same exact solution of the Greylock School by putting a new school at the Sullivan site."
Bedard said the West End has gotten new fields and lighting, and now would get a new school so its property values would go up. But the Kemp Avenue area would lose its neighborhood school and see its the property values go down. And he's argued that downtown Conte isn't safe or appropriate for younger children.
"I see this feasibility study as a last-ditch effort to save that building on Main Street," he said. "... this should be about the children ... anyone who says the children would be better off downtown is either an idiot or a liar."
Councilor Keith Bona, a member of the School Building Committee, said there was no expectation the feasibility study would find a solution in Conte, which was closed as a middle school in 2008.
"Clearly, we thought Conte was off the board," said Bona. "At no point was anyone given any instructions to save Conte ... We thought it was going to be too costly."
Kristian Whitsett of Margo Jones Architects also said Conte wasn't really considered an option but the architects were surprised to find it worked well with the "clustering" configuration for teaching and also offered a way to be "green" in terms of reuse.
The Sullivan site, too, had been studied extensively, he said, in terms of additions and building a new structure but the steep terrain around the site limited location, parking, bus drop-offs and "we couldn't figure out where to put the ballfield."
The SBA will only cover site work up to 8 percent of the construction
Renovating and adding on to the current school would mean five levels that would require children and residents going up and down stairs to get from one end of the school to the other, making it difficult for the gym to be used by the community.
Diane Parsons said she was "biased" against using Conte and council President Ronald Boucher, "a fan of neighborhood schools," asked if there was an option to build a new Greylock and fix up Sullivan if the SBA rejected a two-school project.
Wittseg said they couldn't "spend a little bit" on Sullivan because it would trigger more expensive renovations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Bedard was not convinced of the argument against Sullivan and was getting signatures on a petition to keep the school open.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said another public session on the project would be held on Tuesday, April 28, at 7 p.m. at Sullivan School. "We need people, we need people to give their input."
The agreement sets the property's assessment at $767,200, guaranteeing about $21,000 a year for the next 10 years. Abstaining from the discussion and vote were Councilors David Bond (who works for Scarafoni) and Keith Bona (who rents from Scarafoni).
• The council approved a transfer of $83,000 from the technology account to upgrade the city's aging servers, particularly for the Department of Public Safety. The transfer will leave $50,000 in the account, which is replenished through a percentage of the contract with Time Warner Cable.
Information technology officer Kathy Wall said last week that the funds would be used to replace equipment more than a decade old.
"It's hardware that's going to position us so we can handle all of the infrastructure we have now and in the future," Wall told the Finance Committee last week, including the coming installation of fiber optic in the region. "It's a smart purchase because it's going to let us look at our hardware ... it's looking at all of the infrastructure we have, all of the servers that we have. It is going to give us flexibility for technology coming down the road."
• Set a joint public hearing of the City Council and Planning Board on a proposed zoning change on Curran Highway for Monday, May 9, at 6 p.m.
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Mr. Bedard is way off base on this and wont even open his ears and eyes to different options.If Sullivan or Greylock schools have to be rehabbed will he like the young kids on a bus for an hour each day going to and from Adams so the schools can be rehabbed? Does he understand that the reason why there are new fields at the west end of town is because thats where all the flat land is? Everything that he does not have an answers for he says it's all been a cover up, he says there is room to build a new school up on Kemp Ave, he's a civil engineer he knows this. The design team said they had looked at that and it wont work, he doesnt believe them. Mr. Bedard said he can do it and he will do it for free, (please dont let him).
I understand the concers of traffic issues in the downtown for the younger children, but I do believe possitive changes can be made for the saftey of our kids, please support this project it will be better for our kids education
Excellent presentation at the City Council meeting. Renovating Conte and building a new Greylock School appears to be a good solution to our major concerns regarding deteriorating schools. Preserving part of our heritage as MCLA did with Murdock Hall is an example of what can be done with an old building. North Adams students need to have the best education possible and in a modern school.
To really and Laurie. rellly stated ( it would be better for our kids educiation ) Lourie stated ( students need to have the best education possible and in a modern school )??? Yes kids should have the best education possible but does the building they get it in really matter. Are you saying that kids that are home schooled get any less of an education than kids that are schooled in a fifty million dollar rehab ?? It seems that people are more worried about keeping an old building than what is best for the kids. We should try and keep the building but do not do it on the pretence of being the best thing for the kids. The fifty million dollars will be spent on bricks and cement not books or better teachers things that could give the best education.
The mayor stated he would like more input. Well apparentily we have a Civil Engineer who will work for free. He will listen to someone that we are paying six hunderd thousand dollars why not an Engineer who will work for free.???
I find it most interesting that the "ballfield factor" and "property values" seem to be top of list in terms of evauating school placement. In all the years of Contem Middle School, there were no ballfields adjacent. The Noel field facilities worked well. So why is it so critical that a first class athletic facility be so closely proximal? And property values ? Oh pull-ease - let's start neighborhood warfare within the city. Put the schools where they make the most sense to ALL taxpayers in terms of cost. And start spending some money on the actual teaching and maybe the problems of not-new buyildings will go away. And by the way - how did teh cuyrrent Drury HS become so antiquuated in 30 years ? Just thinking....
GREAT! The council basically paved the way to allowing Scarafoni to own closer to 100% of downtown! And people wonder why there are so many closed businesses and empty storefronts?! If it didn't sell it would remain on the tax rolls anyway.
There's got to be something we can do to break the Scarafoni monopoly on our city! Pretty soon we'll see signs for "Scarafoni North Adams Hotel", "Scarafoni Steeple Plaza", "Scarafoni City Hall" and, of course, "Scarafoni's Pizza".
Editor: The TIF agreement locks Scarafoni into paying taxes; if the Brien Center bought the building, it would pay no taxes as a nonprofit. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Right now the Transcript Building pays $24k a year in taxes. The agreement the council voted on keeps that tax rate close the same for the next 10 years. Scarafoni will pay $250k in taxes the next decade on that building. If Brien Center purchases it the city gets no taxes. $250k over ten years is a good chunk of money for the city. It only locks the value of the building for ten years. If taxes increase he will have to pay more.
If you want to break Scarafoni/Carver's "hold" on downtown, perhaps you or others will come up with a plan, visit a bank for financial backing, and approach the city with that plan? Granted, Dave Carver has resources that many of us don't, but that never stopped a good idea from working.
I grew up in a city where all the schools were multi-floored. It's really pretty common, and I don't understand why that's such a consideration. I suppose that people are used to the idea of schools being one story and spread out, but none of the schools in larger cities or even more dense suburban areas are like that. And, yes, it also does seem important to retain what remains of our buildings that have character.
Bedard is wrong and his ideas would drive the cost up by many millions of dollars.
That said, Conte's site is not good option for becoming an elementary school. It's just a parking lot and a building. You simply can't keep 5-13 year-old kids indoors, all day, 8 months of the year.
I am beginning to think the one big elementary school on Greylock's land is the best option from a child-development and financial point of view.
I know that option was dismissed out of hand by the building committee and city officials because kids from the west end would have to bussed two miles instead of being bussed a few blocks, but maybe the decision makers should take a second look at it.
Mr. Bona would you care to tell the public which meeting the saving of Conte was first discussed? It seems that there is no record of any meetings of the School Building Committee nor are there any minutes. Seems like a lot of decisions were made behind closed doors. It is too bad the press has failed to report on these violations of the open meeting law. Hopefully they will report it to the Attorney General even if she is the Mayor's buddy.
I apologize for using the words liars and idiots. This does not send a positive message to our children. To quote Margo Jones in the first public meeting when she said that Conte was not the best option for the children in terms of the ideal twenty first century learning environment for our children “ I should have chosen better words”
What this feasibility study does not show is a comparison of the long term financial impact of this project. The upfront costs would be about a million or 2% more by putting the same new energy efficient building oriented to take advantage of free Passive Solar Energy from the sun on the Greylock and Sullivan sites but Heating costs are skyrocketing and they will not come down. This would cut the Engineering costs dramatically and maintenance would be easier also. If all the contributing factors to the costs of solving this issue were made public you would see that this is the cheapest and best solution for our children. They wouldn’t have to be relocated during construction. We would not have to compromise on the twenty first century cluster learning concept that was provided to us by the educational consultant. I apologize for using the words idiot and liars in the city council meeting. My words could have been better chosen. Perhaps something like short sighted and not factual.
I believe you were just venting your frustrations from people that just dont want to here any other options.I believe you have some very valid imformation to help the city out!! If only they would take consideration on them.And we the people of this city should be used to that kind of negative talk after all our former leader did that on a daily basis.Keep up the good work Mr.John
Why do people feel that they must bring up the former mayor in every comment. The former mayor is just that , the former mayor. The last fifteen months must have been hard for him. Anyone that losing your job is funnny is sick and needs hilp. Let him live his life without bringing up the past. Please have some respect and let him deal with what he has to.
The mayor has stated that he will be taxing to the max for the next few years. Thank the tax payers for prop. 2 1/2. He also stated that he will need an override vote for the school. Thank goodness the tax payers will be able to slow down his spending spree. Yes I know that we will need to do some work on the buildings we are using now. So. If you do not have money to buy and new car you fix the old one. If you can not afford a new home , you paint and patch the one you have. To borrow money when you can not afford to does not make sense. The mayor said he needs to tax to the max to keep the city running??? Doesn't that tell anyone that the city needs to cut spending not spend more ?? He has maxed out the cities credit . Before long he will expect an override just to keep up with his spending????
I would rather have my son go to the West end where he can run and play in the fields than downtown where he will be caged like an animal. If one big school is the best option then so be it. Using our children as a funding source to resurrect the Conte Building is absolutely appalling. Please find another way to save it than at the expense of our children's welfare. Anyone who has a heart and speaks from it would say downtown behind fences is no place for little children to be going to school. City of North Adams Administration please listen to your conscience and do the right thing for the children.
It was my families land that Sullivan School and Kemp park sit on today.... it was taken by eminent domain by the city but supposedly it was also put into the stipulation that it had to remain a certain way. Who knows if this has anything to do with how they want to lay out the new grounds but it could. This area used to be one of the best and nicest in North Adams and still kinda is but it is going downhill fast and needs some major restoration. I always remember my mother saying that no matter what the view had to stay the same in regards to the park placement so maybe there are set restrictions in place.... I know that the people that live on Kemp Avenue do not want the school moved closer to the road or have traffic made worse then it already is there. Whats wrong with just updating the building inside completely and making it a small neighborhood school the way it was intended...it does not need to enlarged...just updated. Open the back entrance back up and start using it for faculty parking or some other use. Kids deserve the same equipment in every school and it simply isn't fair to deny them that because of area...distribute what you have equally to the schools. Of course some one will probably try to give me some p.c. b.s. and tell me it can't be done that way but of course simple logic says otherwise.
Simple logic is against the law. If they so anything to Sullivan, the law stipulates that they must make the whole thing handicap accessible, which would cost almost as much as a new school. Also, there are concerns over the structural integrity of the concrete "T" forms used to make the roof. Add that the gym is too small and is falling apart.
To fix everything, plus add multiple elevators go to each level would cost far more than a new school.
Because of the costs, the architects looked at building new on the same site, but because of the slopes, it would cost millions more than flat land or upgrading Conte. It would also require moving students elsewhere for at least two years, which could mean busing them to Adams or something like that.
None of the overall plans is particularly good. As I wrote last week, the "big" school option on Greylock's land makes more and more sense the more I look at it.
Just vote for None OF THE ABOVE. The world will not end and the kids still have a school to go to . It's all about what people can afford. Mr. Tax to the max needs to stop the spending like everyone has a money tree in the back yard. If the OVERRIDE passes then next year he will be looking for an override for a New Police and Fire Station.
Editor: But if you build a school there, you lose the fields. Plus, I'd hate to think what you'd find if you started digging down there. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Building a new school anyplace except in replacement of current facilities might prelude the restructuring of the housing format Perhaps 5-7 in Sullivan and Greylock and K-4 in Brayton and a yet to be constructed site
It would be so nice if the Carver group was able to benefit from the revenue they would get from a long term lease and not have to absorb the unthinkable burden of a property tax...That is a very interesting piece of property after creating space for a social service agency in the former Transcript building further exploration of its uses might bring about its transformation to a multiuse facility to attract a second tenant. I do not think the idea of centralized wealth is unique to North Adams, This plan could only be a boom to the slumping economy, The city will endure. Just raise taxes and offset the losses suffered.
I was wondering when we would get to a new fire station...This is one amenity the city undoubtedly needs...Build the new firehouse and expand and renovate the police station, The wagon house at the fire station could become an emergency command center with a few high tech upgrades..This seems far fetched but if disaster hits or a crisis confronts the city how comforting it would be to be prepared for the situation
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.