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Mount Greylock Gets Final Tab for School Building Project
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
06:17AM / Saturday, August 13, 2022
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The final bill to Williamstown and Lanesborough for the construction project at Mount Greylock Regional School came in at $33 million, according to a final audit presented to the School Committee on Thursday evening.
 
The Massachusetts School Building Authority gave the district its final audit on July 28. Superintendent Jason McCandless told the committee that the final cost of the renovation/addition project at the middle/high school is $64,693,600, just more than $44,000 less than the budget approved back in 2016.
 
But the MSBA's contribution is about $1.5 million lower than the maximum grant projected by the state agency at the outset of the project.
 
McCandless, who joined the district well after the school opened in September 2018, said he discussed the final numbers with Lanesborough's Stephen Wentworth and Williamstown's Hugh Daley, who served on the finance subcommittee of the School Building Committee that oversaw the project.
 
They were not surprised that the state share of the final project was a little lower than hoped for at the outset.
 
"In conversation with Hugh and Steve, that was all things the School Building Committee understood," McCandless said. "There were certain things added to the project, certain things the MSBA doesn't pay for as a rule.
 
"We came in right where we said we were going to come in."
 
The local share — the portion borne directly by taxpayers in member towns Lanesborough and Williamstown — of $32,950,109 was on the low end of a $4 million range of costs presented to taxpayers in the leadup to a bond vote authorizing the project.
 
Estimates at the time of the vote put the local share from $31.5 million to $35.5 million. The final bill of $33 million fell below the mid-range estimate of $33.5 million.
 
Now that the district knows the actual cost of the building project, it can take the step of securing the final "cleanup bond" to cover its costs, McCandless told the School Committee.
 
The MSBA share ended up being $31,743,49, just more than 49 percent of the cost of the project. The MSBA is funded by a penny of the commonwealth's 6.25-cent sales tax, or 16 percent of the state's sales tax receipts.
 
McCandless used the audit report as an opportunity to thank the voters of each member town, who approved the project and the taxpayers who continue to pay the bond. He also singled out, among others, his predecessors Rose Ellis and Kim Grady, the School Committee and School Building Committee members who shepherded the project and the staff and students of Mount Greylock who both contributed to the design process and lived through the construction period.
 
"Building a new school is among the most optimistic, hopeful and future-focused investments communities can make," McCandless said. "[The school] serves as a shining example of what good things can grow from a community-wide effort, and even a statewide effort as the MSBA is a vital partner to every community in the commonwealth through this process."
 
District officials reviewed and signed off on the MSBA's audit earlier this month, McCandless said. The remaining administrative step is a ratification by the MSBA Board of Directors at its late-August meeting.
 
In other business on Thursday night, the School Committee approved a $250,000 contract with CHA, the designer selected by a committee designated to choose an architect for the planned track and multi-sport grass field at Mount Greylock.
 
"[$250,000] is slightly above the 10 percent [of project cost] we were looking for, but it includes some add alternate that will give us a broad sense of some of the items we may not be able to fit into this project but may be able to do down the road," Carrie Greene told her colleagues. "It's good value for that dollar amount."
 
The School Committee, with just four members in attendance, had a somewhat brief agenda for the late summer meeting. Greene, Christina Conry, Ursula Maloy and Steven Miller did approve a couple of policy changes on second reads — one addressing sexual harassment against employees and another on field trips for students.
 
McCandless notified the committee that he likely will give the go-ahead for Lanesborough Elementary School to create a second section for its second grade for the coming school year.
 
He explained that the class size stood at 19 back in March — on the cusp for where he would consider creating two classrooms. The School Council at the time had advocated for that step, but the administration held back with the understanding that it would reconsider the step during the summer.
 
Currently, the grade has 22 pupils enrolled for September.
 
"When I look through the makeup in terms of 504 plans and [individualized education plans] and when I look and see we have a waiting list of five or six students who would like to school choice into that grade … it's a section where it might serve everyone better to add a teacher," McCandless said.
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