As the Needham Town Meeting prepares to vote on appropriating $450,000 for design plans for the Newman Elementary School renovation project, some parents are urging members to vote ‘no’.
In an open letter to Town Meeting members, Newman parent Rick Freedman said the town has failed to analyze all the options before moving ahead with a project that could cost taxpayers millions.
“Because the School Committee has failed to conduct this simple and valuable analysis—or if they have done so they have failed to share it with the public—I urge Town Meeting to vote “NO” to funding these designs until such analysis of the costs and benefits of short, medium and long-range solutions have been completed and can be studied by Town Meeting,” he wrote in the letter.
“…I implore Town Meeting to review the cost and feasibility of other options besides the “permanent” HVAC fix by commissioning a formal analysis from the project architects DRA, and reviewing the results with the town members,” the letter goes on to say. “This analysis could be done in a few days and is worth the time given the size of the proposed project and the corresponding impact to our town’s bottom line and our Newman families.”
School officials announced earlier this year that they would be working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority to design and fund the renovation of the school’s heating and ventilation system along with other school upgrades. The project is estimated to cost upwards of $20 million, and could take between 12 and 15 months to complete. The state school building authority could fund as much as 40 percent of the renovations, though an exact number has yet to be determined.
(See our previous coverage here.)
“The proposed “permanent” HVAC solution will be VERY expensive and VERY disruptive to the parents and children who are supposed to attend Newman,” Freedman said. “It is not clear to myself or to many other parents why it makes sense to spend close to $25 million in total to update the HVAC system of a 45 year old building, when the total cost for a Permanent Solution, i.e. to replace the building entirely, has been estimated to cost as little as $31 million.”
Freedman also expressed concern that state budget problems would force the school building authority to withdraw its promise to help fund the project.
"If the MSBA funds are not forthcoming, or the override does not pass, then this $450,000 in design funds will have been wasted," he said.
Town Meeting is scheduled to vote on the design funds next Monday, May 11th at a special Town Meeting.
To see Freedman’s letter in its entirety, click: HERE.
For more Town Meeting information, visit: needhamma.gov