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The School Committee is expected this week to make final decisions on the bid package for a new sports field.
Updated January 12, 2021 08:10AM

Mount Greylock School Committee Faces Thursday Vote on Scope of Fields Project

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock School Committee this Thursday is slated to decide what elements — if any — can be trimmed from a multimillion-dollar athletic fields project before it goes out to bid.
 
The committee's Finance Subcommittee last week took a first pass at the "value engineering" list of items that were included in the first version of the project to go out to bid in 2019.
 
The subcommittee made plans to discuss the value engineering list again on the afternoon of Jan. 14 before the topic goes to the full committee for final decisions later that evening. The school district's architects from Perkins Eastman and Traverse Landscape Architects compiled the value engineering list and plan to participate in next Thursday's discussions at the subcommittee and School Committee level, Business Manager Joe Bergeron told the subcommittee on Thursday afternoon.
 
The biggest ticket item on the list of potential cuts is lighting for the planned multi-sport synthetic turf field.
 
In 2019, lighting was included as part of the base bid for the project, and the costs for that element came back with a range of $380,000 to $520,000 out of total bids ranging from $2.85 million to $2.98 million.
 
Two years ago, when the bid documents were being prepared for the first go-around, Traverse advised the School Committee that it had the option to install the lights (at a stated estimated cost of $400,000) or to install just the conduits and prep work for future installation of lights (for an estimated $80,000).
 
This time around, the architects are advising the district against paying for the infrastructure that would allow future installation of lights, Bergeron said.
 
"In my conversations with Perkins Eastman on this topic, because it is such a big ticket item, they said … trying to some sort of partial prep but not actually [installing lights] is becoming increasingly challenging because there are so many proprietary systems out there," Bergeron said. "[It makes] it more difficult to say I'll just sort of 'stub it out' and not complete it. Different lighting packages even vary in terms of the placement of lighting along the field and how that happens.
 
"So it's an incredibly detailed topic, and you kind of need to either be all in or don't dip your toes into the water on it. Because you'll end up just having to redo all of that later."
 
Bergeron advised the Finance Subcommittee that the athletic department at the middle-high school wants the School Committee to go "all in" and keep the lights as part of the base bid for the project.
 
"Our athletics department response … is that the ability to have night games allows for the hosting of [Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association] events," Bergeron said. "Expanded use of the fields — lighting is an integral part of a modern field that gets heavy use. So the question is, think hard before you remove it because you are reducing a lot of your potential use.
 
"That's where the awkward decision is left to the School Committee to determine the value there."
 
In the run-up to deciding whether to make an artificial turf field part of the project, much was made by the proponents of synthetic turf about how it would allow more outdoor physical education practices.
 
At one point, the chair of the Phase 2 Subcommittee, which developed the fields project and shepherded the 2019 bid, told the School Committee, "When [physical education teacher Brian Gill] came in and told us how transformative [an artificial field] would be and the number of students beyond athletes it would serve, that's what convinced us this was the way to go."
 
It was unclear at Thursday's meeting whether the middle-high school now plans to conduct physical education classes at night.
 
Finance Subcommittee Chair Carolyn Greene asked Bergeron whether it would be possible to reuse the lighting from Mount Greylock's current soccer/football/lacrosse field. He answered that the dated infrastructure there is subpar and not reusable.
 
Member Michelle Johnson questioned whether the school could have a less expensive lighting solution.
 
"I'd like [lighting] to be a last-case scenario in my opinion," Johnson said. "I think they're right in terms of the usability of the field significantly increasing. … But that is a very large [expenditure]. I guess the question is: Is that 'value-engineered' lighting to begin with? Because I'm sure lighting ranges in price from not-so-fancy to really fancy. Where are we in that continuum? Is this the most expensive lighting or the least expensive lighting?"
 
Bergeron said he would ask the architects whether there are options for lighting that could lower the estimated costs.
 
Part of the design team's presentation at this Thursday's School Committee meeting will be updated cost estimates for the project as well as the value-engineering elements. This iteration of the School Committee already has voted a preference to include in the base bid a running track, which in 2019 was an add-alternate and which contractors bid at prices ranging from $549,000 to $879,000. 
 
"It will be interesting to see by next Thursday where that third-party estimation has taken Perkins Eastman in terms of $2.9 [million] to where," Bergeron said. "I've asked Perkins Eastman to be clear if there areas where the cost estimator is saying, 'There's a pretty big range here, to be honest, given the volatility of the market.' Because right now, both labor and materials are seeing high levels of volatility as we move into this year.
 
"It will be interesting see whether that third-party cost estimator is able to say: It's a range of $2.4 to $2.7 [million]. Or are they going to say it's $2.2 to $2.9 [million]. Which are very different pictures for us as we look at overall project costs."
 
If the project stays on track, including a final decision on the scope at Thursday's School Committee meeting, Traverse Landscape Architects estimates that the project could be advertised the week of March 8 with bids due back the week of April 5. On TLA's timeline, construction could start May 3 with substantial completion by July 30, in time for the 2021-22 school year.
 
Story updated on Jan. 12 to clarify comments from Michelle Johnson.

Tags: MGRHS,   playing fields,   turf field,   

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Williamstown Employees Resign After Complaint; Board Member Leaving

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Two employees of the town resigned Monday in the wake of a complaint about employee conduct.
 
And one member of the five-person Select Board will be leaving his post a year ahead of schedule.
 
Those were the surprises to emerge from a meeting that mostly focused on the town's efforts to investigate accusations of wrongdoing in its police department and develop a plan to replace its recently retired chief.
 
Select Board Chair Jane Patton announced the employees' departure at the start of the meeting.
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