WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock School Committee is moving forward with a plan to build a 6,400-square-foot multipurpose building to the south of the middle-high school.
At a special afternoon meeting of the committee last week, the panel authorized architect Perkins Eastman to release bid documents with a stated budget of $2.1 million for the building, which would house the district's central administration, storage space for Mount Greylock's groundskeepers, space for the school's athletics program and, potentially, a public restroom to service the playing fields.
With soft costs included, the final project could end up costing the district closer to $2.4 million, Perkins Eastman's Dan Colli told the committee.
"Take whatever bid you get and add $300[thousand]-ish," he said.
The School Committee was at first taken aback by cost estimates that were $350,000 higher than numbers the district heard as recently as last summer.
"The biggest changes were plumbing, electrical and HVAC," Colli said, indicating that the initial estimator had underestimated the cost for those functions in the planned pre-fabricated building. "We also added a belt of [concrete masonry unit] around the base. We thought bringing siding down to the base was not the best for durability."
The "sticker shock," as Chairman Joe Bergeron put it, had the committee members looking for ways to scale back the cost of the building and eventually led them to a strategy of including the public restrooms as an "add alternate," which allows general contractors to file bids with and without the bathrooms. That way the district can proceed with the other critically needed components of the building and return to the bathroom issue at a later date — like when it develops a plan for the rest of the athletic field renovations.
Colli said his firm could get the bid documents on the street as early as this week, allowing the district to open the bids this month an sign a contract in mid-March.
"Based on conversations with building manufacturers, they could get the building out here in June," Colli said. "We could have you in there in early October."
That would allow the district's administrative staff to move out of the construction trailers where they have been quartered since the demolition of the former "old" Mount Greylock began in the spring.
The district has known since the day it designed the renovated middle-high school that it would need to find a new home for the superintendent and her staff, who were displaced from their former offices at Mount Greylock. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is participating in funding for Mount Greylock's $64 million addition/renovation project, does not fund space for such administration, leading to the district's decision to keep it out of the "new" school building.
Fortunately for the district, it received at the project's outset a $5 million gift from Williams College.
District officials decided early on not to use any of that $5 million toward the addition/renovation project itself because to do so effectively would have reduced the state match from the MSBA.
Instead, Mount Greylock officials decided to hold the $5 million for needs like the central office, "site work" for the athletic fields and an endowment for extraordinary maintenance expenses in the future (replacing the roof, for example).
The School Committee has targeted $1.5 million for the building maintenance fund, which leaves $3.5 million to spend on immediate needs, like administrative offices and athletic facilities that are compliant with neither the Americans with Disabilities Act nor Title IX.
In addition to the office space, the planned multipurpose building — which will be sited to the south of the school — will house facilities equipment like riding mowers that are currently stored in temporary containers on the campus and a waxing room for the school's Nordic ski program. During the fall and spring, the latter space will be used to store equipment for other sports teams, Bergeron noted at Thursday's meeting, which was telecast on the school's YouTube channel.
As for the administration, Superintendent Kimberley Grady told the committee that the building has been pared down as much as possible.
"You have eight offices and 10 people, and we've talked about the potential for bringing in more district staff," committee member Dan Caplinger said. "Are we going to feel cramped on Day 2?"
"You will," Grady replied. "For any new administration we bring in, we'll be office sharing. … We are building for what we need now, not what we know we need as a region."
Bergeron reminded the committee that it has long been discussing the need to fill a long-vacant curriculum coordinator position. Grady said that even without adding to the administrative team, space will be tight.
"In these spaces now, there will be two financial assistants in a room," she said. "They're sharing space in the trailer now, and it's not good in budget season. I don't know where you're going to put everybody."
After some discussion at Thursday's meeting and consultation with Lanesborough's Peri Petricca, who is advising the district on construction matters not related to the add/reno of the school itself, Colli said he could possibly create one more office in the "administration wing" of the multipurpose building by taking space from other components.
"If you stay within the envelope of the building, you're not going to add a lot of cost," Colli said.
As for the public restrooms, Petricca argued that it might make sense to put them in a press box/concession stand building at the yet-to-be-determined new athletic field. But Caplinger noted that the plans for a new field to the west of the school may not include a permanent structure.
In the end, the committee decided to go with the add alternate route so it knows exactly how costly a multipurpose building will be with and without the restrooms. If building the restrooms now makes sense fiscally, the committee can take that step. Likewise, if the district's cost estimate for the entire building project is way off, it can go back to square one.
Colli told the committee he was confident the bid would come back in the expected range.
"Where you are right now, I think you're going to get a few bidders," he said.
"We have to state a budget [in the bid documents]. And if the bids come in over that, the district can either say, ‘It's over the budget, we're going to walk away and redesign it,' or you can go ahead and sign the contract. But you have the option to walk away."
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