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The proposed new Greylock School goes before the MSBA Board of Directors next month for a vote to continue into the schematic phase.
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The estimated cost to the city has been reduced to $19-23 million from $23-29 million.

North Adams' Costs Drop for Greylock School Project

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The estimated cost of a new Greylock School to the city has dropped by millions of dollars.
 
Jesse Saylor of TSKP Studio, the project designer, said the Massachusetts School Building Authority had dramatically increased the amount of funding available for projects.
 
"Now, we could see it at $19 [million] and our range is $19 [million] to $23 [million]," he told the School Building Committee last week. "Whereas before it went all the way up to near $29 [million].
 
The committee had been shocked at the cost projections presented last spring: the options had been estimated at up to $90 million and the city's share  between $25 million and $45 million. 
 
Those figures had come down some after historic comparisons with other projects but the committee was still looking at between $21 million and nearly $30 million for a new Greylock School. 
 
The lower end of the city's share had been predicated on the MSBA increasing its cap on reimbursement per square foot from $432 to $510. 
 
"The MSBA has increased its cost cap and and increased it more than we had hoped so that's it in a nutshell," said Saylor. "The cap has been raised to $550 for construction costs."
 
In addition, the site costs are 10 percent of the square-foot cap, so that's been raised as well for a total of $610 per square foot.  
 
The project cost of $61 million hasn't changed since the last meeting; what has changed is the amount that state is willing to reimburse. 
 
The MSBA is also changing how it looks at outside federal funding toward projects. Communities that used grant funding in their contributions would see the state's reimbursement decrease equally.
 
But that's changed with the federal Inflation Reduction Act, said Saylor, and could allow for items such as solar energy, heat pumps and EV charging stations.
 
"We don't have a number today to talk about as to how that affects the cost to the city," he said. "It's a little more complicated than we can calculate just yet. ...
 
"If you can get them for free, we should look at that very, very closely."
 
Superintendent Barbara Malkas said she and Business Administrator Nancy Rausch and Randall Luther of TSKP had taken an MSBA webinar on the act and that the potential savings are substantial. 
 
Some projects have already saved in excess of $6 million, she said. 
 
"So while we don't have clear numbers with respect to our potential project, we do know that other schools that have recently have been able to access these funds at a significant cost savings," she said. 
 
Luther said they would have do some calculations on whether investing in a more expensive system like geothermal was wise when a cheaper mechanical system would suffice. 
 
Rauscher said Mass Save was very involved in the webinar and was offering communities help with analytics and determining best choices. 
 
Committee member Benjamin Lamb noted that the school needs to be sustainable over a period of 50 years. 
 
"I think the savings over the long term is certainly something to be considering in this overall calculation," he said. As well, he continued, the school would be a shelter-in-place location and having redundancies and resilient systems like solar should be considered a public safety matter.
 
But fellow committee member David Moresi cautioned that the high tech equipment being pushed by the state comes with other costs.
 
"Keep in mind future ongoing maintenance," he said. "This equipment is very expensive to maintain. It requires a very skilled set of people to maintain this equipment. The city has very little capacity, I think, both on their facility side and in their in-house management."
 
The new Greylock School proposal will be presented to the MSBA Board of Directors on Dec. 13 for a vote on moving into the schematic phase. That phase is expected to take about four months.
  
Matthew Sturz of Colliers International, the owner's project manager, said their presentation to the Facilities Assessment Subcommittee earlier this month was given high marks and commended for its educational program. 
 
"It was very positive discussion in our view, and it started to move us forward and start to think about taking the next steps and developing the design," agreed Saylor.  

Tags: brayton/greylock project,   MSBA,   

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How can women bridge the retirement gap?

Submitted by Edward Jones

March 8 is International Women's Day, a day for celebrating all the accomplishments of women around the globe. But many women still need to make up ground in one key area: retirement security.

Women's challenges in achieving a secure retirement are due to several factors, including these:

  • Pay gap – It's smaller than it once was, but a wage gap still exists between men and women. In fact, women earn, on average, about 82 cents for every dollar that men earn, according to the Census Bureau. And even though this gap narrows considerably at higher educational levels, it's still a source of concern. Women who earn less than men will likely contribute less to 401(k) plans and will ultimately see smaller Social Security checks.
  • Longer lives – At age 65, women live, on average, about 20 more years, compared to almost 17 for men, according to the Social Security Administration. Those extra years mean extra expenses. 
  • Caregiving responsibilities – Traditionally, women have done much of the caregiving for young children and older parents. And while this caregiving is done with love, it also comes with financial sacrifice. Consider this: The average employment-related costs for mothers providing unpaid care is nearly $300,000 over a lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Labor — which translates to a reduction of 15 percent of lifetime earnings. Furthermore, time away from the workforce results in fewer contributions to 401(k) and other employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Ultimately, these issues can leave women with a retirement security deficit. Here are some moves that can help close this gap:

  • Contribute as much as possible to retirement plans. Try to contribute as much as you can afford to your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. Your earnings can grow tax deferred and your contributions can lower your taxable income. (With a Roth 401(k), contributions aren't deductible, but earnings and withdrawals are tax free, provided you meet certain conditions.) At a minimum, contribute enough to earn your employer's matching contribution, if one is offered, and try to boost your contributions whenever your salary goes up. If you don't have access to a 401(k), but you have earned income, you can contribute to an IRA. Even if you don't have earned income, but you have a spouse who does, you might be eligible to contribute to a spousal IRA.
  • Maximize Social Security benefits. You can start taking Social Security at 62, but your monthly checks will be much bigger if you can afford to wait until your full retirement age, which will be around 66½. If you are married, you may want to coordinate your benefits with those of your spouse — in some cases, it makes sense for the spouse with the lower benefits to claim first, based on their earnings record, and apply for spousal benefits later, when the spouse with higher benefits begins to collect.
  • Build an emergency fund. Try to build an emergency fund containing up to six months' worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid account. Having this fund available will help protect you from having to dip into your retirement accounts for large, unexpected costs, such as a major home or car repair.

It's unfortunate, but women still must travel a more difficult road than men to reach retirement security. But making the right moves can help ease the journey.

 

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