School renovation planning conducted in public meetings

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By Monday, Oct 6 Learning, Letters  3 Comments

To the Editor:

There has been much discussion about the so-called third option pertaining to the Monument Mountain Renovation Plan. In a nut shell the 3rd option is a repair only option that would see MSBA [Massachusetts School Building Authority] reimbursement of approximately 40 percent. The opponents of our current renovation plan claim we have hidden this option from the public. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The repair-only option was one of over a dozen options vetted by the School Building Committee. Every one of the School Building Committee meetings was posted and open to the public. The School Building Committee made numerous reports to the School Committee in public meetings where many of these options were discussed. The Berkshire Hills Regional School District School Committee ultimately endorsed the recommendation of the Building Committee to bring forward a renovation  option which included both facility upgrades and  educational enhancements .

The 3rd option while slightly less expensive would have approximately a 20 percent lower reimbursement than our current proposal. We have been asked why we didn’t bring this option to the voters this past November in addition to the proposal we submitted.  First and foremost the MSBA would not have allowed us to bring more than one option to the voters. They asked us to submit one option for their approval and that is what we did. We submitted the option that we felt was beneficial both educationally and financially.

We were and are aware that any options we bring foreword will increase the residents  taxes. We wanted the plan that we felt meet the educational criteria spelled out in our Statement of Intent and was eligible for the maximum amount of reimbursement.

You may disagree with our decisions and we respect that. In a democracy disagreement is encouraged. What is untrue and troubling is the accusations that anyone representing Monument Matters or the District lied or hid any option from the public. We want this project to be successful but not at any cost. We respect the democratic process and would not do anything to affect the integrity of that process.

Stephen C. Bannon

Great Barrington

The writer is chairman of the BHRSD School Committee.


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3 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Mickey Friedman says:

    I understand and appreciate that you made a choice you believed would solve the many needs of Monument. You combined needed repairs with educational enhancements. But just maybe you miscalculated the capacity of the taxpayers in Great Barrington. A quick question: If you’ve never put in an application under the MSBA Core Program for Major Repairs, how are you certain that the reimbursement rate would be 40%?
    “Hidden” is your word. My point is that the current pie chart being circulated – that compares an application under the Accelerated Repair Program to the 51.2 million is unfair and inaccurate. Clearly any application under the Accelerated Repair Program has strict limits and much of what needs fixing at Monument won’t be reimbursed by the MSBA. So yes that option is more expensive. I suspect whoever made those two pie charts knew the MSBA would reimburse only the boiler, the roof and the windows under the Accelerated Repair Program. But what about a pie chart that compares an application under the Core Program’s Major Repair program? What I and others have respectfully suggested is a two part approach – a well-crafted application for Major Repairs and once the taxpayers have sufficiently recovered an attempt to find funding for the educational programs you hoped to fund with your first 55.6 million dollar proposal. Critics of the 50+ million dollar proposals have merely and respectfully tried to find solutions that might be more palatable to the already burdened taxpayers, a proposal that would win support at the polls and begin the process of repairing Monument.

    1. Karen Smith says:

      The question was asked if we were to go the Repair Only Option. Here are the details:
      The reimbursement for Repair Only is the base rate has been published by MSBA at 40.9%.

      • Major assumptions
      Inflation rate of 3% was used.

      Same scope of work as Repair Only option previously presented in $38.6m plan (no space enhancements, no additions. No STEM WING)

      o The district would remove itself from current program and resubmit a new Statement of Intent. In total it will take 8 years to get to construction (5 years of waiting for MSBA invite and then 3 years of planning and voter approval)

      o All work to be done at once.

      o All work to be reimbursed at base rate only (no incentive points allowed by MSBA for Repair projects); rate to be the same 40.9% and it has been declining in actuality.

      o Asbestos floor tiles and the $750k for design are only non-reimbursable components in this analysis

      • Results
      o Total cost of plan is $47.4m
      o Estimated MSBA reimbursement is $18.4m
      • Net Cost to District is $28.9m (similar in cost to the District of $28m which includes full renovation)

      So the question of waiting and doing just Repair Only will not generate a saving , will not get the building a 50 year life expectancy nor will it improve any of the educational issues.

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