Published May 26, 2021
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Town Meeting will be asked to appropriate $1.75 million for several improvements connected to the elementary schools’ expansion project.
School Building Committee (SBC) Chairman John Scenna recalled during a May 17 meeting that the Select Board submitted Article 13 for the warrant, which seeks to allocate $1.75 million for security equipment, drainage improvements, site improvements and material costs for the $17 million elementary schools’ expansion project.
“None of these items came out of the feasibility study,” said Scenna.
Town Administrator Rob Dolan said Article 13 will be bonded and will not require a debt exclusion vote.
“It will need a two-thirds vote to pass Town Meeting,” said Dolan. “The project has not been blown up before we have gone out to bid. We are being proactive in a number of areas.”
Dolan said Article 13 seeks to increase the project’s contingency budget from 3 percent to 8 percent by appropriating an additional $715,477.
“The market is incredibly volatile right now due to the lack of supplies and the cost of supplies,” said Dolan. “We currently have a 3 percent contingency, which is not great. The project is certainly not in the red, but our margins are so small right now that we think it will be appropriate to go before Town Meeting to use some of our bonding capacity to create a buffer to raise the contingency from 3 percent to 8 percent. I think this will put us in a very strong position as we open up the bids. We can’t hire a general contractor until we have all of the money.”
Scenna said increasing the contingency budget from 3 percent to 8 percent will create a better safety net for the community.
“This will allow us to go into the bid opening with an 8 percent contingency in place,” said Scenna. “It’s conservative and needed considering all of the changes we are seeing in the industry and the economy. This is a straight borrowing order and it is not going to be added to the debt exclusion. This is on the tax base.”
SBC member Jack Dahlstedt said he was in favor of increasing the school project’s contingency budget.
“The economy is very uncertain,” said Dahlstedt, who served as the Finance Committee’s chairman for five years. “I would feel more comfortable if the 3 percent contingency is increased to 8 percent by doing this.”
Dolan said $700,000 is being eyed in order to make drainage improvements around both elementary schools. Several abutters told the SBC and the Planning Board during previous meetings about flooding problems that have occurred at both sites over the past 20 years.
“It will deal with issues that haven’t been dealt with for a couple of decades,” said Dolan.
Scenna said the drainage issues “were existing problems at both sites.”
“We made a commitment to those neighbors that we would bring everything up to stormwater standards,” said Scenna. “In order to do that, this became a drainage project in addition to a school project.”
Scenna recalled that Summer Street’s site “can only take so much water” during storms.
“Certain catch basins wouldn’t drain,” said Scenna. “The catch basins filled up, overflowed and flowed into neighboring properties. The more intense the storm, the more this happened. As the water flowed into neighboring properties, it created damage and that damage varied in terms of severity based on the intensity of the storm. What this project does is it creates a system that retains water on the site.”
Dolan said the drainage funds will also address flooding problems on Melch Road.
“The ponding at the bottom of Melch Road is going to be solved,” said Dolan.
Scenna said Article 13 includes $125,000 in order replace Summer Street School’s bi-directional amplifier (BDA) system.
“It’s a way for public safety to communicate better during an emergency inside and outside the building,” said Scenna. “Huckleberry’s BDA’s system passed during a test while Summer Street’s failed. This will bring both buildings up to code from a public safety perspective. Both chiefs are recommending we add it to Summer Street.”
“We would have sought funding for the BDA system regardless of this project,” said Dolan.
Dolan said $209,250 is included for site improvements at both schools, which includes funds in order to repair Knoll Road’s deteriorating sidewalk.
“That will improve safety,” said Dolan. “We would have probably done that as a separate capital item regardless of this project.”
After the discussion, the SBC unanimously endorsed Article 13.