Concord-Carlisle school district officials met with the state this week and are “doing whatever it takes” to get the high school building project back on track since state funding was suspended last month, according to the deputy superintendent of finance and operations.
District officials are working together with the Massachusetts School Building Authority to return the high school building project to its original scope, budget and timeline after the state suspended $28.8 million in grant payments for the new school last month when the project veered off course.
“The district is committed to doing whatever it takes to get the project back on track,” said John Flaherty, deputy Superintendent of Finance and Operations. “We understand the severity of the situation. We're taking all necessary steps. We are resolved to make sure that we satisfy all MSBA requirements.”
After their first face-to-face meeting Monday with the building authority since the payment suspension, Flaherty said district officials are determined to meet the 30-day deadline set by the state for proof of progress.
“There’s mutual understanding that the district understood the necessity of conforming" to the Project Funding Agreement, said Flaherty. “I thought it went pretty well.”
A spokesman for the School Building Authority said it would have no comment until after it receives the materials it has requested from the district.
On June 26, the district received a harsh letter from the state suspending payments to the district’s $92.6 million project until the district supplied nine pieces of information, including cost estimates, a schedule and proof that the district understands the state’s requirements for the project. The district has 30 days to comply.
“Some of the actions have already taken place. The work is ongoing,” said Flaherty of the district’s progress in supplying that information. “Everything’s covered. We expect to submit that on July 26 to the MSBA.”
In May, the estimated projected cost of the project had ballooned by $10 million over its $75.1 million construction budget. In recent weeks, that number has dropped to around $3 to $5 million, according to officials. Flaherty said that the district is taking steps to ensure that by the time it submits design development plans to the agency in August, construction will be back within the original budget.
At Monday’s meeting, said Flaherty, the district and state came to an understanding about the project’s schedule, which the state said in its letter was delayed by several months.
For a while, said Flaherty, the district had been contemplating an “aggressive” schedule that would see it breaking ground on the project this summer. That schedule, he said, has been dropped.
The original schedule in the project funding agreement, he said, had the district breaking ground in the late summer – that timeline has been pushed back to the fall, he said, but the project is still on track to hit its original completion date of September 2015. It may even be completed a little earlier, said Flaherty.
“The purpose of the July 16 meeting was to ensure that the path that we had set as the corrective actions needed to satisfy MSBA’s concerns were correct,” said Flaherty. “I think we’re all in agreement that we’re moving in the right way.”
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org