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The Meeting Before The Meeting - SOI Part 1

by Chris Cain
February 11, 2019

Bright and early Monday morning (as evidenced by the halo in the photo below) an important meeting was held in the Selectmen's Conference Room.  Representative Carolyn Dykema convened the meeting to allow the School Committee Chair Staci Raffi and Ann-Louise Hanstad, Superintendent Dr. Jackson, Selectmen Ahronian and Marsden, and Finance Committee Chair Ken Szadja to meet with Jack McCarthy, the Deputy CEO and Executive Director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority to discuss the process and merits of submitting a Statement of Interest to the MSBA regarding Holliston High School.  Dennis Giombetti, representing State Senate President Karen Spilka was also present.

Mr. McCarthy (far right above) opened by paraphrasing the MSBA mission which features the word "Partner."  The word partner prompted a flashback for me - a working definition of the word Partnership as 'a relationship in which we are jointly committed to the success of whatever we are engaged in.'  He provided information about the types of partnerships into which his organization enters.  He presented an unbiased overview of each including how the MSBA financially supports projects they take on.

There is an Accelerated Repair Program (ARP) that provides funding for Roofs, Windows, and Boilers. As the name suggests this is a project that is generally completed during the summer months when schools are mostly vacant.  A portion of the High School roof was replaced during the 2001 renovation and that portion would not be covered by ARP.

The other approach is a Core project.  The MSBA allows a Core project to include three options: Bringing the facility up to current building codes, A renovation of the existing facility, or Building a new facility.

All project type starts with the Statement of Interest (SOI) which must be approved by the Superintendent of Schools, the School Committee, and the Board of Selectmen.  The SOI basically defines the problem that the community is looking to solve.  The MSBA reviews all SOI's (2018 there were 70 submissions).  From that pool, districts are 'Invited In' to the process (2018 - 12 districts were selected).  The urgency of the need presenting is the primary factor in selecting the districts invited in each year. At that point the district can say Yes or No to begin the project.  A Yes leads to the partnership with MSBA.  Next up is a feasibility study which is voted on at a town meeting.  The feasibility study results are brought back to town meeting.  A vote to approve a plan (code upgrade, renovation, or build) is held.  If local funding requires a debt exclusion, a town election would be held.  When the town has approved the plan and authorized the funding, the work begins.  Mr. McCarthy pointed out that when all the steps are followed, the actual project work is easy.

Jack McCarthy advised all to adhere to this concept, 'Don't talk numbers until you know the number.'  Today's discussion did not include specific numbers for any school project that Holliston might undertake.  Mr. McCarthy did share some general numbers. The Massachusetts legislature established MSBA and funds it with 1 cent of every dollar collected from sales tax.  Currently, that fund totals $800 million dollars.  He also shared that once MSBA commits funding to a district, that support is guaranteed.  Also, the MSBA financial support begins with the commissioning of a feasibility study and is a 'pay as you go' reimbursement format through the completion of the project.  In addition, the MSBA funds a commissioning service that functions like a warranty during the entire first year of use following project completion.  MSBA reimbursement of feasibilty study through project completion range from 31 - 80%.  The group asked Mr. McCarthy to provide what a more reasonable estimate for a Holliston project might be.

The MSBA website (link below) lists Holliston High school as a 2 on a 4 (lowest) point scale.  This rating was completed by MSBA professional staff in 2016.  The point was made that this scale is NOT an indicator of school maintenance / cleanliness.  The scale is not the only criterion used as the MSBA makes its annual invitations to partner with districts.

If the Superintendent, School Committee, and Board of Selectmen approve (at tonight's BoS meeting), the next key step is submission deadlines.  SOI's for the Accelerated Repair Program are due this Friday.  SOI's for a Core project are due on Friday April 12, 2019.

Much more information on this critical resource for school building / repair can be found at the MSBA website: http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/



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Comments (1)

Before any more money is spent on the schools more senior and handicap housing should be first in line.It is time this town do something for seniors beside tax them out of their homes.

- warren legee | 2/11/19 9:06 PM



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