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SSBC Over Budget

North Reading High School/Middle School Construction project.

The SSBC has announced the schools project is $9 to 12 million dollars short. Apparently the plan is to have another special town meeting and election this Spring to request additional funds. The $107 million project would swell to as much as $119 million.

No word on the new projected tax increase. Sadly its an all too familiar scenario when special interest groups elect their members to the Selectman & School Committee. This has been a poorly planned project from the start. But the Selectman refuse to acknowledge that fact, again due to the special interest pressure. Hopefully the Selectman will have the courage to advise the SSBC that they will have to stay within the monies allocated. That is what they promised the electorate when they unanimously approved this endeavor. Stay to your word.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mel Webster January 11, 2013 at 10:14 PM
The high school/middle school building project has NOT been poorly planned from the start. While the fact that we will need more money to complete the project is an unpleasant one, there are numerous reasons behind the problem. If you want more information, the secondary school building committee meets several times a month, usually on Tuesday evenings, and the meetings are open to the public. All town committees and officials have worked extremely hard on this project. No one tried to pull the wool over anyone's eyes when it was put before town meeting and a special town election last year. The professionals hired by the town and approved by the Mass School Building Authority provided us with a number that they said would cover the cost of the project. We then took that number to the townspeople. Prior to any special town meeting or election to ask for more money, there will be informational sessions held to allow residents to hear the details and ask questions about the project. The charge that special interest groups elect their members to the school committee is laughable. I have run and been elected three times, and each time I have had no opposition. For at least the last 9 years, and maybe longer, there have been no contested races for a school committee position. If residents want a bigger say in how the town is run, they should run for public office. I think it is appalling that there are so few candidates for school committee.
Jeff Witts January 13, 2013 at 02:38 AM
The school will be built if they get the extra money or not. It will be missing many design elements and the auditorium/grounds/gym/technology will be severly lacking. If memory serves me correct, the police station project was also over budget by a staggering 50%. I know that was not near the scope of the high school project, but voters approved the extra money and I do not remember any complaints. The members of the SSBC are volunteers and rely on the hired experts approved by the MSBA. The hired experts estimating the project totally dropped the ball and they should be held accountable along with the MSBA. The hired experts promised the SSBC that the school could easily be built for $108 million. People need to understand the facts before making public comments and the best way I know is to attend the SSBC meetings that happen every Tuesday at 5:30pm either in the High School cafeteria or Middle School large group room.
Joe Veno January 13, 2013 at 04:08 PM
That is who I am saying the town should go after for the money needed. The hired experts that promised the SSBC that the school could easily be built for $108 million. I am not finding fault with TheSchool Committee, The SSBC or the Selectmen in this issue at all. People listened to the facts last time and we got the school passed. You have to understand many people do not trust the town because of things like this that happen. Please do not preach to them to attend a meeting. As I said in my other email you can tell them When, Where, Why and How the need fo rthe 9 to 12 million happened but that does not help them if they can not afford another tax hike.
Dave Miskinis January 14, 2013 at 02:43 PM
The issue - not only in N. Reading - is that elected townspeople, whether they run opposed or not, are largely not qualified to evaluate and oversee these kinds of complex projects. It should give no one comfort that the "Mass School Building Authority" validated anything. Just look at the incompetence of our statewide government with regards to oversight of anything.....drug labs, probation, housing, tunnel saftey...it goes on and on and on...... I am not saying that elected officials don't care, but you have to imagine that these developers and builders salivate at the opportunity to low ball projects and then once the town commits, they know - as someone said above - that the project will go through. i believe I recently read that the Reading library renovations are already over budget and the shovel has not even hit the dirt.
Ed Canney January 14, 2013 at 03:07 PM
To Mel & Jeff' When many in town questioned from the beginning how the SSBC arrived at their numbers, those inquiries were dismissed. There were misleading State reimbursement percentages, what exactly was being reimbursed, what was the town's obligation (48%, 49%, 51%?). Its all on public record. Volunteer committees for a project of this magnitude are unacceptable, and the result is obvious. You hire a competent engineering firm that will provide structural, mechanical and geological analysis as the architectural plan is developed, not the reverse. Snow loading, storm run-off, and soil analysis would have been incorporated prior to any estimated cost. Using a square footage cost for an architectural plan will never suffice. Do you really think the voters will be satisfied w/out new eyes looking at this mess? Perhaps have some members of the SSBC take a coarse in construction management. And as to the School Committee & Selectman, take criticism as constructive. Being reactive is what got you into this situation in the first place.
Ed Canney January 14, 2013 at 04:29 PM
An example Mel, of the scope of the incompetence....when the septic outlet pipe for the Middle School was drilled through(and had to be replaced) during soil analysis, don't you think that should have raised some flags? Contractors are required to investigate where all pipes, wiring and all underground connections to structures are located prior to soil work...its called "Dig Safe". And who paid for that pipe replacement. The property tax payer!? Wouldn't you agree that was incompetence? You are an elected official, your response-ability is to the taxed, not volunteer committees, sans their stated commitment.
Dave Miskinis January 14, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Well said Ed.
Ed Canney January 14, 2013 at 04:45 PM
Thanks Dave, let's hear what Mel & the Selectman have to say. They either come to grips w/the situation, or continue to obfuscate. I'll wager on the latter.
Jeff Witts January 14, 2013 at 06:13 PM
Mr Canney, I think you represent a constituency that may not be represented on the Selectmen or School Committe. Have you every thought of running for either board? Your views may be helpful. Also, you seem very knowledgable about construction and how the committee works or how it should work. Have you thought about joining the SSBC as well? I am sure some member would gladly resign to allow you a spot on the SSBC.
Ed Canney January 14, 2013 at 09:41 PM
Jeff; have been Chairman of the Board of Selectman. And proud to say w/no connection to special interest. We also had a school building committee for the high school. I was the liaison of the Selectman to that committee. The project was on time and on budget.
Jeff Witts January 14, 2013 at 09:45 PM
That is great. More the reason to run for Selectmen or join the SSBC. You can help keep the budget in-line for what the voters approved. You have valuable experience. Thanks for serving the community in the past.
Ed Canney January 14, 2013 at 10:01 PM
I'm flattered by your suggestion, Jeff. However I teach Construction Supervision four nights a week and weekends instruct CEU classes for construction supervisors. As to your suggestion of my expertise...I was also your Building Inspector for 10 years in North Reading, 12 years in other communities. Your thoughts are appreciated.
Ed Canney January 15, 2013 at 03:23 PM
May be the time to consider a 1% meals tax rather than go to another property tax rate hike? From Mass.gov web site: What is the Local Option Sales Tax on Meals? In 2009, the Legislature added Chapter 64L, "Local Option Meals Excise," to the General Laws. Under this chapter, a city or town that accepts the provisions of this chapter in the manner provided by M.G.L. Ch. 4, sec. 4, may impose a local sales tax on the sales of restaurant meals originating with the city or town by a vendor at the rate of .75 percent of the gross receipts of the vendor from the sale of restaurant meals. (See M.G.L. Ch. 64L, sec. 2(a).) This local excise, which is imposed in addition to the 6.25 percent state sales tax on meals takes effect on the first day of the calendar quarter following 30 days after acceptance by the city or town on on the first day of a later calendar quarter that the city or town may designate. For more information, see TIR 09-13, Local Option Sales Tax on Meals.
Mel Webster January 15, 2013 at 03:32 PM
Ed. I only ask one favor. Please let me know all of the special interests to which I am beholden. As I have stated numerous times, no on wants to run for these offices and every year the school committee election is uncontested. I welcome all those interested to step up to the plate and run for office. As for the complaints about volunteer committees not having the expertise, that is why an architect and owners project manager were hired early on. They are the experts and they developed the estimated cost for the project. That is why they were hired. If you have complaints, much of those are with state laws. They dictate that there be a volunteer school building committee to manage project and they set up the MSBA, which for the most part works well. Bottom line is the school will be built whether an override is passed or not. But, as Jeff noted above, without an override there will be missing pieces. If you wan the details, please attend the public forums over the next few months.
Ashley Troutman January 15, 2013 at 06:20 PM
Comments have been removed from this article due to personal attacks. Please be civil when commenting on this site.
Ed Canney January 15, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Mel you are obviously a dedicated school committee member, and I find that admirable. To the special interest affiliation...the group(s) advocating for a new HS. Yes am aware of the need for a SBC as required by the MSBA. I helped appoint two, and was the liaison to both. We had members that had construction expertise(Chairman Welch as an example, a then contractor). Same with the citizens committee for the library, Harry Wagg was the chair, a construction supervisor & hospital maintenance supervisor. Mel, an architect, submits concepts. An engineering firm does detailed analysis relative to that conceptional plan, and is required under the building code for structures over 35,000 cu/ft. That's what was lost in the process. You never have an architect estimate cost, w/out an engineering review. Not knowing the credentials of the manager, I can only advise that their job is to follow the submitted plans(hopefully he has an unrestricted supervisor license and knows the codes), but its not their job to estimate. Items publicly cited: snow loading & poor soils should never had been an issue, should a qualified engineering firm reviewed the plans. I teach this stuff Mel, I know what I'm talking about. Why don't you have the SSBC call me, I'll advise them as to proper process. But please, Mel stop w/the excuses and ask "Where did we fail". That's your obligation to the tax payers of North Reading. You ask the same of students.So learn from your mistakes.
Ed Canney January 15, 2013 at 06:43 PM
Really! Personal attacks? Wow. Would like to see them & from whom.
Slater January 15, 2013 at 06:59 PM
so Ed, you contributed to the library renovations, the one where the slate roof tiles kept falling. Well I guess you credibility is dropping a little.
Ed Canney January 15, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Slater...our construction supervisor for the library was fired by the Town Administrator at the time, Steve Daly (no reason given) The construction manager, Edward Carlson was a contractor and saw mill operator in North Reading and well respected, hired by the Library Committee. He's retired in Maine, but I can have him weigh in on this matter if you prefer. He was having issues as to the integrity of the work at the library by the contractor. As you do not know, we have a "strong town manager" charter. So our only alternative was to fire the Town Administrator. Which I and Nancy Ciironi attempted to do, but over this issue was deemed within the Town Administrator's purview by the majority of Selectman board members(he was under contract, so dismissal would require he be paid the balance of his contract). So your memory is correct. The tiles on the roof where improperly installed, removed and replaced. The contractor's insurance reimbursed the town for the issue. Any thing else Slater? Just ask. Have you been to the Library, Slater? Its a great building, no problems I know of....but perhaps you might. What are they? What's your issue?
Mel Webster January 15, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Ed, all I can tell you is that every step in the project is dictated and approved by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). North Reading followed every one of those steps in getting to its estimate for this project. Per MSBA rules, it is the job of the owners project manager and the architect to come up with the estimate. And, that estimate was then approved by the MSBA. While I do not doubt your qualifications, it appears to me that you are not aware of MSBA regulations and how these projects work. It is a lot different from when we renovated the Little, Hood and Batchelder Schools. The town has far less authority or oversight now than it did before the MSBA was put into place about 8 years ago. As far as a failure, there has not been one as far as I can see. And I am not making excuses, Ed. All I am doing is explaining why the project is over budget. And everything I have posted is accurate. By the way, there are several members of the SSBC who have building and engineering expertise.
Slater January 15, 2013 at 10:12 PM
It seems that you are a teacher. If a student came to half your classes, read half the text book, would you expect them to have a solid and informed grasp of the subject? Well you just told us that you have not ever been to a SSBC meeting for the HS, and from previous post that you get your info primarily from the transcript and the Patch. I'm sure the talk at the coffee shop is rich with rumor too. It seems to me you are making judgements with only a small part of the story. I hope you'll attend the public meetings Mel mentioned, and you listen to all the information. Then I'll grant your ideas more credibility.
Karl Weld January 15, 2013 at 10:42 PM
Yes, due to " erroneous calculations" the Reading library project amount was low by about $2.4 million. The original cost presented to Town Meeting was $12.1 million. It's now at $14.5 million. Special Town Meeting will vote whether or not to hold a debt exclusion vote (in April) on this project later this month. The estimated average tax increase has increased from $100/yr for 10 years to $140/yr for 10 years. Throw in the 22% cost inflation due to the Prevailing Wage law and you begin to see how every municipal project spirals out of control.
Ed Canney January 16, 2013 at 05:53 PM
Mel I appreciate your explanation. However as I pointed out, the building code requires architectural plans be reviewed by a structural engineer for projects of this magnitude. Additionally soil analysis is required. Its all in the "Construction Control" section of the State Code, for all construction 35,000 cu/ft and over. Prior to permit issuance, building departments require affidavits from electrical, mechanical and structural engineers that they have reviewed the plans and will inspect within their discipline as the project progresses and submit reports relative to those inspections. I just can't imagine the MSBA advising communities to subvert the codes. If there are members of the SSBC with "construction experience", then they missed some very important criteria. Wasn't several million spent on "plan preparation"? Well, that's when these issues should have been resolved.
Ed Canney January 16, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Mel I appreciate your explanation. However as I pointed out, the building code requires architectural plans be reviewed by a structural engineer for projects of this magnitude. Additionally soil analysis is required. Its all in the "Construction Control" section of the State Code, for all construction 35,000 cu/ft and over. Prior to permit issuance, building departments require affidavits from electrical, mechanical and structural engineers affirming that they have reviewed the plans and will inspect within their discipline as the project progresses and submit reports relative to those inspections. I just can't imagine the MSBA advising communities to subvert the codes. If there are members of the SSBC with "construction experience", then they missed some very important criteria. Wasn't several million spent on "plan preparation"? Well, that's when these issues should have been resolved. As a public official, your responses are sincerely appreciated. Hopefully, you will take some of my advice back to your board & the SSBC.
Ron Powell January 16, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Not indicated anywhere in the article, but this pertains to North Reading and not reading.
Danny M January 23, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Ed, you are correct if we could afford to pay for the whole school . The partnership with the State requires the process we are currently following for the Town to recieve reimbursement
Ed Canney January 23, 2013 at 01:28 PM
I don't doubt that Dan. When I previously commented that the SSBC should consider an 'errors of omission" filing against the architect, I was not being facetious. He/she was responsible to have had a structural engineering review of his/her plans, prior to providing an estimate of the construction. The example being the Middle School roof. An engineering review would have calculated the dead & snow loads required for that roof, and subsequent cost. Same with soil analysis.So if the architect did not perform "due diligence", then they are responsible for cost inaccuracies, and should bear those costs differentials. I've been an expert witness in these types of cases. If the architect blew it, he owns it. Jerry Venezia & Delaney are lawyers. They know that.

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