WAKEFIELD — In a two-minute special meeting held via Zoom at 9 a.m. today, the Town Council voted unanimously to schedule a Special Election on March 11 for citizens to vote on the proposal to build a new Wakefield Memorial High School at a cost of $273.7 million.
The election will take place at the Galvin Middle School on March 11 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. There will be no formal “early voting” for this Special Election, but absentee ballots will be available from the Town Clerk’s office.
This morning’s Town Council vote was the next step after last Saturday’s Special Town Meeting, where voters approved the funding for a new high school by a vote of 1,231-42.
The high school project is big in scope. The new, state-of-the-art facility would replace a building that has many physical and educational limitations and would be constructed on the current side of the Shaun F. Beasley Track and Field.
In December, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Board of Directors voted to fund a share of the cost of the proposed new Wakefield Memorial High School (WMHS). The MSBA also revised upward its project funding limits, which will mean a boost of approximately $5 million in additional state funds for the WMHS project, bringing the state’s share to about $65 million. The town will still be responsible for about $208 million of the project costs.
Both votes were unanimous.
The total cost of the proposed new Wakefield Memorial High School is estimated at $273.7 million. On Oct. 11, 2022, Lynn Stapleton of project management firm LeftField, told the School Committee that, of that total, $109,762,737 is eligible for reimbursement by the MSBA.
Based on the funding rate of $360 per square foot in effect at the time, Stapleton said in October that Wakefield could expect a total state reimbursement of about $60 million leaving the town responsible for about $213.7 million.
But the MSBA has been hearing from municipalities that its per-square-foot reimbursement rate of $360 was not coming close to keeping pace with inflation and soaring construction costs. The MSBA board responded by increasing the effective reimbursement to $432 per square foot.
Based on that increased rate, the MSBA in December estimated that Wakefield’s maximum revised grant would be about $65 million. That would leave the town responsible for about $208 million.
MSBA board members stressed that increasing their per-square-foot reimbursement meant that they would be able to fund fewer school projects going forward unless the Massachusetts Legislature steps in and addresses the funding issue.
After being rejected for three years in a row, the town learned in December of 2019 that the MSBA Board of Directors had voted to invite Wakefield Memorial High School into the MSBA’s Eligibility Period. The MSBA partners with Massachusetts communities to support the design and construction of educationally-appropriate, flexible, sustainable and cost-effective public school facilities.
In November 2020, Town Meeting voted 200-1 to approve $2 million for a feasibility study for the reconstruction of the high school.
In the spring of 2021, project management firm LeftField was chosen by the Permanent Building Committee to serve as Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) for the WMHS building project. An OPM works as a consultant on behalf of the town through the completion of the project and must be completely independent from the designer, general contractor and any sub-contractors involved in the project at all times.
In August of 2021, the firm of Symmes, Maini & McKee Associates, Inc. (SMMA) of Boston was selected as the designer for the new Wakefield Memorial High School Building Project.
BOND Building was selected in August 2022 as the construction firm that will build a proposed new Wakefield Memorial High School.
In October, new cost estimates placed the total project cost at $273.7 million, up from earlier estimates of $220 million.