EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 23, 2013

School officials trim cost of Pelham High makeover

Pelham High project

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM — School officials have squeezed savings from a proposed Pelham High School renovation and expansion.

They are moving toward putting a $22.65 million project before voters at Town Meeting next March.

A final School Board decision is expected at a July 17 meeting, once architects have refined the plan.

Officials have worked on the project for months but got a first look at potential costs earlier this month.

The recommended project amounted to $24 million, but architects identified optional savings that would lower the cost to about $20 million.

Superintendent-elect Amanda Lecaroz said the board decided last week to go with some of those options, including ones relating to roof and courtyard design.

“I thought the targeted reductions we made were reasonable,” School Board Chairman Brian Carton said.

“They’ll help bring the cost down with little impact on the real benefits of the project,” he said.

Officials are looking to upgrade the high school to satisfy educational accreditors and meet enrollment needs into the future.

The project would include a two-story addition and a 240-seat auditorium.

The architectural firm, Manchester-based Lavallee Brensinger, has said the simple, but elegant design will reduce noise, let in more light, add classrooms and be more energy-efficient.

School Board members have stressed they want a project that will become an asset to the community.

The annual tax impact for a 25-year bond, pegged to the initial $24 million cost, ranged from 67 cents to $1.46 per $1,000 property valuation.

Few residents attended a public forum earlier this month, where no one objected to the project.

But once the project is finalized, residents will have an opportunity to weigh in through the Town Meeting process next winter.

Meanwhile, Carton said the board is still working on plans to house SAU 28 administrators.

Windham split with Pelham, effective July 1. Temporarily housed in their old offices in Windham, the Pelham administrators need to find offices in town.

“We asked for an alternate proposal that will consolidate the SAU and kindergarten space into a single, new portable to be placed where the current kindergarten portable exists,” Carton said.

The kindergarten is at Pelham Elementary School off Marsh Road.

“We’ll review the feasibility of that concept on July 10. We currently rent the kindergarten portable for about $125,000 a year,” he said.