EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 21, 2014

Letter: Questions remain about cost of new Hunking School

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To the editor:

When I wrote my letter to the editor about the building of the new Hunking School, published Friday, March 7, I expected a rebuttal from Superintendent Scully. What I did not expect was to be rebutted with half-truths and distortion of the truth. (”Column: Haverhill’s Hunking project is reasonable, cost-efficient,” March 14.)

The citizens of Haverhill and I deserve better. The fact of the matter is that adding a few science labs, tech shops and a band room do not add $20 million to the cost of the overall project; extravagant design does.

Mr. Scully tell us Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester told him he needed to hire an architect and project manager, which I’m sure he did. What I am also sure of is that Mr. Chester did not tell him he could circumvent state law and hire them without an open bidding process, which could possibly disqualify this project from state funding. He also tells us he is going to save us $11 million by including the Greenleaf School with the Hunking School. What he doesn’t tell us is how much that adds to the costs of replacing the Hunking only. I would say this added at a minimum $20 million and possibly as much as $30 million. How can you say you are saving us money when in reality you are spending millions more?

Mr. Scully has been quoted several times, along with the mayor, as recently as in his state of the city address, that the new Hunking’s estimated cost is $61.7 million, yet in his column he states that the estimated cost is $50 million.

The city is planning to try for a $24 million debt exclusion, which is the city’s share of $61.7 million, not of $50 million; the city share of $50 million would be $19.5 million, almost $6 million less. He will probably tell us that this is in case of cost overruns. However, if you have an architect that is competent, at a maximum you will only need 10 percent for cost overruns. The original debt exclusion that the city wants to continue was to build four schools not one.

The superintendent also touts other school districts that are building schools that do not have the same demographics as Haverhill. They are all quite wealthy and can afford schools that cost more than the state average. Haverhill has many elderly and disabled living on fixed incomes. The supposed cost for the average homeowner, $2.58 week, might be one less meal a week for 52 fewer meals a year!

The new Bresnahan School in Newburyport is very similar to the Hunking. It has a band/music room; a huge septic system had to be built, plus several weeks of excavation had to be done before the project could begin, which I think would equal the drainage problems at the Hunking site. If the soil and site are such a poor place for construction, maybe we should look at other sites. I find it unbelievable that a few science lab and tech shops can add $20 million to this project, causing its per-square-foot cost to be so high.

I have worked for the last 44 years in the construction industry and during the last six years, 90 percent of my work has been building schools, pre-K through college, in Eastern Massachusetts. And the Bresnahan is one project I was recently involved with. Yes, we need to build a new Hunking School but not at this exorbitant cost. I urge everyone to vote against this debt exclusion and send them back to the drawing board to come back with an affordable plan.

Michael Lesiczka