EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 3, 2013

Letter: New Hunking School will be tough sell to taxpayers


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To the editor:

Upon watching the Haverhill School Committee broadcast of its meeting regarding a new school to replace the terminal Hunking School in Bradford, any resident proponents for a new school have their work cut out for them. Having attended the original meeting regarding a new school a couple months ago, I was already skeptical of its passage success when it will be put before voters in the spring. Any and all skepticism is now laid to rest after viewing the broadcast.

The first and most glaring issue is cost. We were told that a new school would cost between $25 million and $50 million, with the state picking up roughly 67 percent of the costs. At the meeting, we heard varying degrees of the state picking up costs from 60 percent to 71 percent, but for now, let’s stick with the original 67 percent. This ends up that Haverhill citizens pick up the costs anywhere from $8 million to $16 million should this pass, a large spread in any event.

I’m not sure I understood correctly, but near end of the meeting the number $24 million was thrown out. Was that the cost for the entire project? Or was that the tab the Haverhill citizenry is going to be asked to pick up? If that’s Haverhill’s tab, that’s $8 million more than the maximum originally projected, good luck on that sell.

The second glaring issue I can see is the issue of the site itself. JCJ Architecture’s submitted plans are to build on and around the current Hunking site. JCJ clearly stated this will not be an issue, but did not appear to me very confident in their answer of how they addressed water drainage issues. This issue was of course raised by not only residents, but School Committee member Joseph Bevilacqua prior, so further skepticism of this problem is warranted. Hopefully the next meeting will address this issue.

The next tough sell is going to be Haverhill residents who don’t live in the Bradford section who may believe they receive no benefit from a new school, hence no reason to vote in favor of such. However, Hunking will be closed in three years, which is a certainty, with no new school; the remaining middle schools will see an influx of over 100 children each. With Haverhill Public Schools already performing abysmally in MCAS results, I’m confident that stuffing more children in already overcrowded classrooms will not be conducive to our children’s learning environment. Some residents may think they can just send their kids to a private school or alternate education, but what they will find is the waiting lists are miles long — we’ve tried. Only those who acted early due to their keen foresight “got out”, so voters now will have a serious decision come spring that impacts us all, regardless of where you live.

What do I wish for? Maybe our hometown state Rep. Brian Dempsey, who chairs the most powerful committee on Beacon Hill, the House Ways and Means, can submit a bill to make this fiscal disaster in a depression, in a poor city with indefinite property tax increases, go away. It won’t really go away though, due to the tens-of-billions in unfunded liabilities still on the states books. So forcing taxpayers to bail us out might be tough. Heck, we were just forced to fund a $500 million bailout of the MBTA, which included an indefinite gas tax. What’s a little quid pro quo though?

Duncan Burns

Bradford