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Pittsfield Council Reviewing School Feasibility Request

By Joe Durwin
Pittsfield Correspondent
03:33PM / Wednesday, April 10, 2013
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The City Council is being asked to approve $1.3 million to embark on a feasibility study of Taconic High School.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Long-awaited options for addressing the city's high school building needs may be available by next year, pending City Council approval of a partially reimbursed expenditure of $1.3 million to pursue a state-mandated design feasibility study.

The council referred the appropriation for review by the finance subcommittee on April 25.

"It's been a long process, multiple years long," School Committee member Kathy Amuso, who also chairs the School Building Needs Commission, told the council Tuesday.  "This really is an exciting prospect that we are entering into for the next phase of our high school project." 

At the end of the process, which is expected to take 10 to 12 months from its start date, Amuso said, the city will have eight options for either replacement or major renovation of its Taconic High School building, based on a recently approved educational plan for the school.

Skanska, a major national construction firm that conducted a $200,000 pre-feasibility study for the commission in the spring of 2011, will be retained to manage the project.

The state requires this design phase in order to qualify for up to 78 percent reimbursement for the total cost of the high school project from the Massachusetts State Building Authority.

"This is the next step that we have to do to get into the feasibility stage," Amuso told the council, which will examine the finer points of the phase on April 25.

The appropriation includes budgeting for $100,000 of environmental testing in researching both options of renovating the existing Taconic building or replacing it with a new one at the same site.  

The total budget is what was considered to be the maximum costs of the services necessary to complete the required phase, and the project may come in at less than the $1.3 million Mayor Daniel Bianchi has asked the council to authorize.

"This is an estimate based on other vocational high school projects," Bianchi told the council.

The MSBA determined in 2009 that the Taconic school building, though 39 years younger than Pittsfield High School, was in more dire need of complete overhaul, including redevelopment of its vocational educational programs.

This current design phase has been waiting for approval of an educational plan that was hotly debated by the Public School Committee over several months, after an initial plan put forth by the building needs commission drew fire from some local businesses who opposed the removal of the auto body and metal fabrication programs.

Tags: feasibility study,   MSBA,   school building committee,   Taconic High,   

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