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Initial study of Scituate’s Gates School suggests over $20 million price tag

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  October 9, 2012 01:21 PM

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Courtesy of Durke Brown Viveirs Werenfels Architechs

An architectural rendering of Gates Middle School shows one out of four options of how the building can be transformed into a Town Hall. No decisions have yet been made on which option may be best.

Repairing Scituate’s Gates Middle School could cost more than $20 million, according to an analysis of the building presented to town selectmen last week.

The scope of work only details what it would take to bring the building up to code and update much of the infrastructure, including the roof, windows, stairs, heating system, bathrooms, and general handicapped access.

If the building were to remain a school, bringing in technology upgrades and expanding it to fit the growing student population would cost more. If the building were to be turned into a town hall, as is the hope of town officials, the building would need other interior changes.

Regardless, according to the architects from Durkee Brown Viveiros Werenfels, the base cost most likely is around the $20-22 million mark.

“It’s getting to a point where the building is looking old and feeling old,” said Ashley Prester, a project manager at the firm.

Presenters broke down possible repairs into three priorities, with safety, code compliance, and fixing failing systems at the top.

They also suggested the town replace systems that were at the end of their useful life, and do preventative maintenance on the building. Finally, betterments to the building were suggested under the third priority.

That number does not include hazardous materials abatement, general contractor costs, and other soft costs such as moving and needing temporary facilities while construction is ongoing.

Although there is a high price tag, presenters said that the benefit of having such a building was not to be overlooked.

“You have a building that is there, that does need to be repaired, But if you want new from scratch you’d be looking at double that, if not more,” Prester said.

The analysis was paid for with both $65,000 in Community Preservation money and $15,000 from $375,000 allocated at town meeting in April, and has been the first step in determining the feasibility of the town’s Master Plan.

The plan looks to transform the existing school into a renovated Town Hall and senior center, rebuild a school on the lot of the current town hall, and establish a public safety complex with a new fire station and police station.

Along those lines, town officials asked the architects to do a space allocation study of Gates School to determine if the building could be used as a town hall.

Architects discovered the possibilities of doing so were many, and that town departments could be expanded by 25 percent within the Gates School with over 15,000 square feet to spare.

The senior center would also be able to take up an entire wing of the building, with its own entrance and exit.

Options to change the building into a town hall could mean the demolition of some non-historic parts of the building, such as the C wing, a one-story block to the right of the main building section.

That would make room for increased parking.

Although there is much to be decided with what departments go where, and if any demolition is to occur, the fact that the school can be turned into a town hall was exciting for officials.

“It can work, and that’s giant for us looking forward,” said selectmen chair Joseph Norton.

Town officials said they would determine what space allocation options they liked best with the Public Buildings Commission. From there, the architects would give further cost estimates for the chosen designs.

While work continues on transforming the Gates School into a town hall, town officials are looking to move forward with an estimated $600,000 study that would analyze the educational needs of all the schools, which buildings need repair, and what possible solutions might be.

The town also hopes to complete an estimated $200,000 public safety needs study to analyze how a complex would be built in the town.

Funding for both of these things will most likely be requested at Special Town Meeting in November, though it is still unclear how much of the remaining $360,000 from April town meeting would be used to off-set the request.

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