Project manager Carl Weber and architect Margo Jones go over the design for a new Greylock School, one of the possible options.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Building Committee on Wednesday selected Conte Middle School for renovations, out of six possible school options.
The former Drury High School, closed for the past several years, scored 11 votes from the 15-member building committee as the best option to put forward to the state School Building Authority. That doesn't mean the decision is cut and dried.
"This has to get past the MSBA, certainly we had a good, favorable, solid vote for the Conte Middle School solution tonight," said Mayor Richard Alcombright afterward. "Then I still have to come before [City] Council for that $31 million bonding approval ... I'm sure that will be debated heavily."
The Conte option is estimated at $31.5 million with the city's share at $6.4 million. The state is expected to reimburse at 80 percent of eligible costs and the architects rated Conte as the "best" to reach LEED Silver certification, which would mean an extra 2 percent in reimbursement.
The decision marks a year of ups and downs during which the committee had hoped for a two-school building solution for 620 students in Kindergarten through Grade 7 at Conte and Greylock School. But the original proposal to close the 46-year-old Sullivan School in favor of Conte sparked parents' anger. The state asked the city for more information and in November sent an independent team to assess the facilities.
After a sparsely attended meeting two weeks ago, the building committee made its decision on Wednesday after more than an hour of debate and some input from a slightly larger audience at City Hall.
While all six of the options were reviewed, it was clear that a new Greylock, a new Sullivan or a Conte renovation were the preferred choices. (All of the options would meet the educational needs; the question was in what building the educational needs would be met.)
Several members thought a larger, 620-student school would solve the school district's space issues in one fell swoop but in the end, it only received one vote. Former longtime School Committee member Ronald Superneau pushed for a new Sullivan School at Kemp Park, citing the desire for neighborhood schools even though admitting most had been torn down in the 1960s and '70s. John Hockridge pointed to the a new 310-Greylock as having the least limitations in terms of site, costs and community response.
There were a few voices in the audience that spoke against losing Sullivan. One mother stood firmly against Conte. "I do not want my child down there," she said. "Not many parents do."
City Councilor John Barrett III, who closed Conte during his last term as mayor, said the site had potential for other than education. "I am opposed to a renovation of Conte ... only because I believe the city has to look at the bigger picture here," he said.
Councilor John Barrett III said Conte should be used for other development efforts.
But committee members, who had once already voted unanimously for the Conte option, were swayed more by the condition of Sullivan than taking the more politically palatable option of rebuilding or renovating Greylock. Nancy Ziter put it succinctly: Which had more structural issues?
"Of all the schools we have right now, Sullivan is in the worst state," said committee member and city Building Inspector William Meranti. If Greylock was chosen, he said, "it does nothing for Sullivan ... we need to do something to help Sullivan ... I'm in favor of the most unpopular option, Conte."
Building committee member Matthew Neville, also director of facilities for the school system, agreed. Sections of Sullivan are shifting because they're on ledge, the school's "T" concrete structure is no longer up to code and the boilers are going, he said. "Greylock will outlast Sullivan by years."
Superintendent James Montepare said money might be found for windows and other needs at Greylock until it "could get back in line" at the SBA in another eight to 10 years.
The city has to provide a package detailing its preference by Monday; the SBA board will meet March 28.
Alcombright said, should the option be approved, the new school debt should be about $70,000 more a year than the current debt for Drury and Brayton schools. Those bonds should be paid along with other debts before the city seeks a new school building bond in fiscal 2015. That could change depending on the final figures.
"I'm comfortable at this point," said Alcombright. "I think the decision is the right one as far as moving forward with a 310-solution that the city could afford."
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I'd like to know what potential JBIII is talking about. Dan Bosley, the most connected person in North Adams, spent a year trying to fill that and other buildings.
Not one bite.
If the city or state doesn't do something, it will sit vacant for a decade or more.
An elementary school may, or may not, be the right option there, but right now it is the only option. JBIII should spend more time trying to get unemployed people jobs than he does trying to be mayor and school committee chair.
It's pretty sad when a city official (Mr. Meranti) stands up in a meeting and says we don't care what the people want. Mr Neville has stated in previous meetings that Greylock was the building in the most dire need, now he changes and says it is Sullivan? Based on the testimony of these two individuals, the children should be evacuated and the building torn down immediatly. Have they factored the cost of razing Sullivan into there costs? It is beyond repair and is dangerous! It has shifted!
Editor: I cannot recall Mr. Neville ever saying that. He spoke several times about the structural problems in agreeing with the architects - that's why they advised not fixing Sullivan, but rebuilding it. When did you hear him say Greylock was worse?
can,t see putting money in that old building .greylock with the bigger school one level no stairs would have been the best nice and new ,they have the play grounds ,ball fields and lots of room to move around out side. conte doesn,t even have a play ground .$31 mil and you still have a old building downtown with drug dealers looking to sell there junk.voted against the will of the people again !
It took a while, but the committee ultimately came to the right decision. That plan is within the city's budget and will probably solve the overcrowding issue once redistricting takes place. It also makes that huge building downtown useful again. Otherwise, I have no faith whatsoever that Conte would ever see any private development happen there. Letting it sit there and rot for the next 20 years is not good for the City. No more low income housing here please.
CM at Risk can result in extra reimsursment from the MSBA, meaning less money. Also, the CM at risk process uses filed sub bids, so costs are the same as with a GC, if not less because of guarenteed percentages on mark-ups. The only reason you think the costs "overrun" is because there is a clear and accurating accounting of the cost from the start. You mostly likely don't understand how a GMP contract works. You never see the 10% or more profit that is made in a lump sum GC project. Not to mention, you can't start a hard bid job with 50% drawings like is typically done with CM's who then bring the design through the finish line.
what you are missing is the behind the scenes deals that were made way before this process even started. This issue was about getting the free money to deal with the empty building downtown all along. and the outcome proves it because yes the greylock option was the most affordable option as the mayor pointed out
Soandso... Mr. Meranti is a city official, and in that capacity he's the building inspector, meaning he's the expert on the condition of the buildings in question. Would you rather that he throw away his technical knowledge and just back a faulty solution - like keeping Sullivan even though it's falling apart literally - just because it's the 'popular' thing? The parents who want Sullivan open are doing so because they like it, their kids like it... that's fine, but you can't ignore the safety issues of that building. It's Mr. Meranti's JOB to tell the truth on a building's condition, and he did that, whether you like it or not, it was honest and that should count for a lot.
From the testimoney of Mr. Meranti and Mr Neville in last nights meeting the Sullivan Building is unsafe and unsavable and needs to be razed and according to Margo Jones to build anything new on that site is unfeasible. Why does the mayor talk about putting senior housing there?
At the second fall meeting at Conte before the proposal was put before the MSBA for a two school option, there was discussion of only putting a one school option to the MSBA with he fear that putting a two school option to them would take all options off the table. At this time Mr Neville supported the Greylock Option if only one school was chosen stating that Greylock was much worse than Sullivan. Both Buildings contain the T trusses that make Sullivan so unsafe. How can they keep greylock if it is so flawed with these T roof supports.
The most disappointing side of this whole story is the absolute lack of the "concerned" parents in this community to voice their opinion. I've already read more comments here about how wrong this decision was than were parents actually at the meeting. I can only remember one person in the audience speak against Conte. That's not exactly "going against the voice of the people".
Why bother holding the meetings for the people to put in their input if you don't listen to it. Not a single Sullivan parent wants their child to go to Conte. The group was very clear on that. I will be transferring my child to another school, and if I can not, I will be moving from this town - as many people I know will be doing. Margo Jones can make Conte look wonderful, pretty and well thought out - but come on, you can't be serious? This just shows the city's true colors! I have a great deal of involvement with Sullivan, and I am very sad to see that no one cares about what the families of these students want. The ones who truly should have a say have been tossed aside. I am angry, hurt and very sad. I have no respect for the city of North Adams anymore. I now understand why so many people run away from this town - and it's only going to get worse. I hope this becomes and epic FAIL once all the money is spent because I know several parents who will NOT send their children to Conte. Any parent who does is a fool. Nothing anyone can say will change my mind on this - the building didn't work for a high school, it didn't work for a middle school, and now you want to put kindergarten children there? Replay the meeting from Sullivan and you will see how bad of an idea this is.
As a parent of a child in a class room of 27 at Brayton, my first concern is a solution to the over crowding. For that reason, I was hoping for a 620 option initially. Renovating Conte will not immediately solve the over crowding issue with out redistricting but it WILL bring new life and luster to a beautiful old building. It's been sad to see the that building going to waste on the hill and deterioating. I am excited to see what they can do with my old Middle School.
I would like to adress the person who said that building didn't work as a high school or a middle school. I disagree. I went there when it was a middle school and I thought it worked out fine. I enjoyed my time there and thought being in a middle school with changing classes was a much needed transition for us in to the high school setting.
I wish the city wasn't so obsessed with K-7 schools and we could have just renovated Conte and sent the kids back there for middle school. That is not an option so here we are. Let's all hope for the best!
since the Sullivan building is unusable and unsaveable and since another building cannot be built on the site, the least the city could do for the east side is put a playground where the school and parking lot of Sullivan are now. This might balance out the residential property value decrease a little bit due to the loss of the school. It may also help get some politicians back in office come next election
There was a Sullivan parent on the committee and she voted for Conte. One of the options put a three story school on the corner of Kemp Park. I doubt the property owners that currently are across from the baseball field would want a three story brick building thirty feet from their front yard. The previous administration approved $600,000 to hire these consultants made up of architects, engineers and education specialists. The consultants did not find a new or renovated Sullivan a viable solution for that lot. I am happy with the choice. Several years from now the last school can be done.
GC bid and CM at Risk both utililize "filed sub bids" for typical filed sub trades such as painting, electrical, plumbing, etc... The difference is the "non-filed trades" such as steel, concrete, metal studs and drywall. Because GC bids are publicly read aloud they have an incentive to use the lowest non filed trades on bid day in order to get low themselves.
CM at Risk is where a construction manager is picked ahead of filed and non-filed sub bids and they negotiate a percentage. Because they make a percentage of a dollar amount they have no incentive to use the lowest non-filed bidders. They actual make out if higher bids are used. 5% of 500,000 is more than 5% of 400,000 for example.
These non-filed numbers are submitted behind closed doors so they public doesn't know that higher numbers are being used. It can open the door to corruption.
Filed sub bids in both cases are publicly read aloud.
CM at Risk (at Risk HA!)also perform no work themselves and are merely an extra layer taking a percentage.
What a bunch of malarky! It seems the tail is wagging the dog here. It's no secret the parents of school age children in NA covet the residential neighborhood school concept such as sullivan and greylock. Heck, it's what made NA and so many other communities attractive back in the day. The school neighborhoods such as Haskins, Freeman, Brayton, Houghton and Johnson fostered the true spirit of community and pride in both parents and children alike. I believe there is a correlation between the dismantling, regardless of reason, of the neighborhood school concept and the decline of our neighborhoods and the city. Sure, the loss of jobs and manufacturing have had a negative impact but at the end of the day, if I lived in the Kemp Park area, regardless if i had kids in school, I'd be fighting real hard for a new school to replace Sullivan. Again, it fosters and promotes a sence of community and also has a profound, positive impact on real estate values for that area. Since my and your home is perhaps the biggest asset we own why not try to enhance its value through making our neighborhood more highly sought after by planting a brand new, state of the art school on the current site? And don't give me this crap about site work and excavation costs. Look how much the City spent on site work at the new high scool location on South Church Street. (Not to mention it's built on a toxic waste site. Wait 'til that bill comes due!!)
The old and former Drury/Conte school is a fine example of construction done right. However, for elementary school kids, I don't think the site is suitable if for no other reason than it lacks outdoor recreation space. We all know the health care train wreck we're facing regarding sedentary, obese children; a generation I like to call generation super XL!
CM at risk gains a percentage from msba funding. 1% of the total project is much more than "inflated" pricing you contend is a product of the CM process. Also, a CM isn't given a percentage on top of the job that goes uncheck. A Guarenteed Maximum Price (GMP) is established that the CM guarentees the job will not cost more than (yes at risk). Therefore, the CM risks alot more by not taking the lowest qualified (key word is qualified, not just low) sub because of the loses that would be incurred by exceeding the GMP.
Further, it is a general consensus in the industry that CM projects produce higher quality. What protects the owner in a hard bid project when the low bidder is 10% low? How does that contractor complete the project without losing shirt? Cutting Corners. What if the project comes in high? The owner is stuck. In a CM scenario, the CM is on-board prior to complete design and can value engineer cost savings to the owner. Ask around at HVHS, with the issues they ran into on that project, I'm sure they're happy they have a CM.
all the work is performed per the standards of the funding source. It is usually not the choice of the town how the work is performed/ managed. If you have an issue with it, you should take it up with the state and feds.
I'm not saying the system is good, just that the towns don't have a choice once they except the money.
Angry Momma says... "I have a great deal of involvement with Sullivan, and I am very sad to see that no one cares about what the families of these students want."
Because you didn't get your way, you think "no one cares" about your kids. I'll tell you what, since this apparently is all about YOUR kids, and not kids from across the school system, maybe the city should rebuild Sullivan and only tax YOU and the rest of the Sullivan parents to pay for it. I love how it's all about just you, and yet you expect the rest of us to foot the bill so you can be happy. Sorry, but the plan YOU want would cost too much, and as long as I'm helping to pay for it, YOU can move. Good luck, by the way, finding another city or town that will cater to YOUR kid's every wish and desire, and for the same low property tax YOU now have. Please feel free to move to Pittsfield, where YOUR tax bill will be triple what it is now.
The School Building Committee should be recognized for their months of dedication and hard work on behalf of this city's children, present and future.
Sorry folks, neighborhood schools as we knew them are gone.
Kudos to Mr. Montepar for making the point that this process of solving our school building issues does not end with this project. More can, and will be done. We don't have to eat the whole apple in one bite.
If the Conte renovation is done in a way that earns a silver grade for LEEDS we will get another 2% on top of the 80%. Saving this historical building could turn out to be the least expensive option.
Won't a fully renovated Conte look fabulous between the steeples.
The owners project manager (rep) is paid to insure that plans and specifications are followed. The CM is only at risk for his direct costs of managing the job. If the plans and specifications are defective the owner still pays.
And the town/city does have a say in how the job is bid. The school building authority likes these large multi-billion dollar CM firms because they make big campaign contributions to the state politicians who fund the school building authority. It shuts out quality mom and pop GC's like Fontaine Bros...If you hate the 1% then you should hate CM at Risk
No one has brought up the cost of a new Public Safety facility at the costof 20-30 Million---bond on Conte-- city's share about 6 million---add another 20--30 mill on that --do the words debt exclusion override ring a familiar bell ??? How nice of the Mayor NOT to have shared the DOJ ADA report with the Council BEFORE they will have to vote on Conte---I just love transparency
Let me see. 27 million for a brand new school at Greylock or a 32 million to fix an old school. Please tell me why spending 5 million more than needed is a good idea ??? Isn't that like spending 32,000 fixing up an old car instead of buying a brand new car for 27,000 ??? WOW
I'd like to take this opertunity to give a few perspectives of the Conte school choice. First off I have been in the school system for over 5 years and have seen what Conte has done when it was a middle school. It got the kids ready for the High school and it built there self esteem. I have a child at Sullivan and one at Drury. I so wish my son had the opertunity to goto Conte when it was open. I work at Sullivan now but started out at Conte. Sullivan has many issues with the building and keepimg things running if you will. To those of you that do not work at the school, it is difficult to see what the building inspecter is saying. You are not there day in and day out dealing with the issues. I do understand your concerns about Conte not having the lack of playgroung facilities, however the front of the building is fenced in and is plenty big enough for playgroung equiptment. Conte would offer alot to our children if you would only give it a chance.
It wasn't all about saving Conte. The condition of the remaining schools was carefully throughout. Greylock cost less but does nothing for Sullivan or Conte. The money saved on Greylock would be spent on temporary fixes for Sullivan including extensive ADA changes and costs to keep Conte from deteriorating more. Sullivan was the most expensive and least favorable of the architects and engineers. By selecting Conte it removes students from Sullivan that only has a few years left before needing major construction. In several years Greylock will be next in line to be renovated or rebuilt. Until then Greylock is a sound structure. Long term planning makes Conte the better and least expensive choice.
In replied to "nope": Shut up and read the rest of the post. Were you present at the meeting at Sullivan? Were you present at all the other meetings throughout the city? Did you deal with all the protest from the Sullivan families? NOPE! Listen, it is not about ME and MY kids - it's about all the kids who are currently at Sullivan and their families. Throughout this whole process there has been numerous families who are opting out of sending their children to Conte. As far as a the neighbors of Sullivan not wanting a new building - think again. You don't live up this way, and it doesn't affect your children. I was all for a new Greylock - so don't say it's just about ME and MY children. The only thing I am against is Conte. I want what is best for ALL children and families involved, and Conte is NOT that. I also work with several families throughout North Adams who will be redistricted to Conte and will not send their children either. If you don't know what you are talking about, then I suggest you don't speak. It's all about the children, and not just mine. Yes, I will move if I have to, because MY children come first. I will homeschool before I send my children to Conte. Plain and simple, Conte is a bad choice for a LOT of families involved, not just mine. If you read my post you would realize that.
The ONLY reason why I chose not to live in North Adams was because of my growing family. I did not like the elementary/middle school (there was still one at the time) situations. My concern as a parent would be (maybe this was discussed by I obviously was not at the meeting) "where are these children going to have recess?" Elementary students take (and need!) that outdoor play time. The only viable place would be the flat portion at the bottom of the school on the Church St side. The other sides have houses, a parking lot and a steep embankment from what I can remember (it's been years since I've been there). Would this be fenced off or something? I personally would not want my 5 year old playing right near a busy street such as that. It would only take 1 child to run off.....
The issue of no green space and only busy streets surrounding the school is why the people of North Adams do not want little kids to go to school there. the responses were numerous. Some answers were
1.) Kids don't have much play time at school anyway so it won't matter.
2.) We have nice cages for the kindergarten and first grade to play in next to the bus drop off and East main street. The rest of the kids don't get to go outside.
The Bottom line is this issue was not about the children and it was evident from the beginning. It is about getting free money to bring a downtown eyesore back from the dead and put something in the empty block on main street. The outcome of this issue shows how much the local government just doesn't care what their constituients think or want to be done with their tax dollars. People are so fed up with government that they ignore it saying there is nothing I can do to change it. The lack of participation in city matters by the people only empowers the government to do what they please more. Not one resident spoke in favor of moving the kids to Conte.
The only people for whom Conte is a good choice are the Main Street business people who have supported Mayor Alcombright in two elections. As far as the kids go, fuhgeddaboutit! For them, and the future generations of students who will attend school there, it's a terrible, terrible choice.
Mayor Alcombright's administration is a case study of just how loopy government can get when the media abandons its watchdog role and climbs in the leadership's pocket. He has spent two and a quarter years basically taking care of his supporters. Oh, if we could only go back to the days when Northern Berkshire had real reporters who weren't so eager to please.
If Barrett had ever mounted such a transparent dog and pony show, local reporters like Ron Plock and the late Glenn Drohan would have demolished it.
The City once again didn't do what was right, especially not what is right for the kids. You put this kids into a traffic jammed congested downtown with no room for buses or anything eles. To me it was about what the Mayor wanted all along, Conte to be a school once again. There is no need for 3 elementary school. They should have renovated the existing Greylock, built a large new addition to that school. Thus having 2 elementary schools, Greylock, and Brayton. Why do we need to mainatain, and staff 3 schools? Poor decision!
Tammy re my post and your response-- yes I knew it was the school building committee--- but would of thought that he would have brought the issue to a Council vote-- if only as a resolution--what happens if the Conte thing is approved by the state only to have the Council balk at the borrowing order---run it if only informally through the Council before submitting it to the state---that's what I was suggesting-----not that the SBC needed to have considered a Public Safety Facility---- but BOTH issues will be in the hands of the Council
Editor: Ahh, I get it. He could have gotten a resolution supporting the decision of the School Building Committee. And then he would have had to explain more about the funding - if the councilors asked. Do you think they would have?
Most of the city council was present throughout the process and several during the final meeting. During an earlier meeting when Mayor Alcombright was leaning towards one school at Greylock councilor Marden and former councilor Lamarre and Boland along with school committee members Moulton encouraged the city push for two schools including Conte. Even former councilor Boucher supported Conte at that meeting until later campaign debates he changed his mind because he had a unnamed developer lined up who wanted it. Councilor Blackmer is the only one who consistently didn't favor Conte. The comment that no community members wanted Conte is false. Most of the board members are North Adams residents, several with children in the school system, including a parent from Sullivan neighborhood and a high honors Drury senior who attended Conte. These members attended over two dozen public meetings listening to the consultant explain the pros and cons to each concept. No matter what decision they made the mayor would be getting blamed for not making everyone happy. I credit this committee for their time in making what they believe is the best decision for our community. How many public meetings were there when the decision to build the new Brayton School was done? A larger Greylock or Sullivan could have been built then and wasn’t.
Tammy- as we exchanged comments 0n another thread0 you agreed that if the DOJ orders a new NAPD thingie it would blow the school buildin effort out of the water---and yes as a Councilor I would like to see those figures----borrowing $6 mil for the schools can be done within the budget but borrowing 20 mil will require an override--I dont have a real problem with Conte-- remember that one or two classes from Sullivan(East) School were housed at Notre Dame for a few years--elementary kids in the downtown area--don't recall any problems--and yes if DA brought a resolution to the Council and questions about the DOJ would be asked
Editor: I was one of the kids at Notre Dame when they moved Grades 5 & 6 down there. I don't recall any problems (as a kid) either. Of course, if he comes to the council with approval from the SBA, would the council be less likely to balk at the cost?
You do the math--what amount ws the operational override for and what was the average hit on the property tax? Think now a $20 million override for NAPD--and figure the property tax hit--DA should have at least released the DOJ report---my sense is that the operational override was "for the children" at least that was the teachers' union mantra---but I'm not so sure that those that voted for that override will be enthused about voting "for the criminals"-- and if such an override fails-- the city gets fined maybe as much as $50 grand a day until it comes into compliance
Times have changed, kids have changed. When I attended Conte, I loved it. I don't understand why everyone is getting bent out of shape? Yes, Sullivan(East School) was a very nice school in the area of residents that lived there, but give your kids a chance. Your children are not going to be sheltered from life as they get older, drugs are all around, your kids could easily get them anywhere, we are all aware of that. I get so sick of people saying not sending my kids to Conte b/c of drugs. Last I knew it was about the education for your child, all thing changing is the location of where they will attend school. Did anyone ever think to ask what the children think?? I'm sure they could care less, unless they are a 6th and 7th grader and then they may not like being with younger kids.
There is no reason conte can not become a welcomed school to the down town area it's just got to be done right and you start by cleaning the city up. Not sit in the corner office thinking jobs are comeing back here those days are done .
Seems that some conflict of interest issues should be investigated seeing that one of the biggest reasons as was told at the meetings to bring the conte building back from the dead was too draw more people to the businesses downtown. The Superintendant of schools and head of the school building committee owns a business downtown