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Concord-Carlisle officials to hold Community Forum to discuss stalled high school building project

Posted by Evan Allen  August 15, 2012 05:45 PM

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The Concord-Carlisle High School Building Committee will hold a Community Forum on Wednesday, Aug. 22, to allow residents to ask questions and make comments about the newest design plans for the district’s $92.6 million high school project.

“We’re heading into this with an open mind and open ears,” said Stan Durlacher, chair of the Committee. “We’re saying, let’s open up the forum, if you will, to all the citizens, and get everything and figure out what we need to answer and analyze.”

The building project hit a major wall in late June when the state suspended $28.8 million worth of grant payments to the district, saying that the project had ballooned over budget and out of scale. That funding has yet to be restored, according to Durlacher.

State officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

District officials have acknowledged that the project cannot continue without the state’s grant payments. Last month, the district submitted a raft of documents to the Massachusetts School Building Authority in order to start the process of restoring funding.

District officials held a conference call with state officials on Aug. 10 to discuss those documents, said Durlacher.

District officials have said that the building project has been whittled back down to its original dimensions, and that it is back within its original budget.

The next step, said Durlacher, is to submit a detailed design package to the state so that the state can study it to make sure it matches the plans the district submitted in its original project funding agreement.

The district will submit those plans, said Durlacher, on or before Aug. 24. School officials will meet with the MSBA Facilities Assessment Subcommittee on Aug. 29 to discuss the plans, describe construction cost estimates and outline a plan for dealing with concerns from the public.

Public outcry over the handling of the project has intensified since the state suspended funding, with some residents raising concerns that the current high school building project is not the same one they voted to fund at Town Meeting last year.

On July 27, Concord residents Lissa and Chris McKinney delivered to school, town and state officials a letter signed by 47 residents slamming the project’s management.

One major grievance: the planned demolition of two bus transportation buildings, and the possible demolition of a third, to make room for the new high school. Residents contend that losing the buildings is a waste of resources, and entirely avoidable. The letter asks the district to request from the state permission to make grading changes and minor road relocation in the site plan for the proposed high school location to allow the transportation buildings to stay standing.

The public forum, said Durlacher, is partly a response to mounting community criticism.

“We’ve heard comments to the effect that ‘This is not what we voted on,’” said Durlacher. “This is our opportunity to give them the information and understand where they think it’s different.”

Durlacher has previously said that the district had no plans to ask the state to shift plans for the high school to accommodate the transportation buildings, but said in an interview on Wednesday that if it is a question raised at the forum, then it is one that the district will study.

“It will not be surprising to me if that is one of the items that we’re asked to take a look at,” he said.

The Community Forum will be held from 7:30-9:30 p.m. in the Little Theater in the High School on Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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