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Plans for new Hingham Middle School advance on several fronts

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  August 3, 2011 07:20 AM

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The Hingham School Committee will formally ask selectmen on Aug. 9 to open the ballot for a Special Town Meeting – slated for late October – in order to request a debt exclusion override for a $50 million to $57 million new Middle School.

Although School Committee members have spoken to selectmen about the possible override, which would also include a $1 million debt exclusion for the first phase of new athletic facilities, they have to formally make the request before the committee can move ahead with the construction plans.

It’s only one of a series of steps School Committee members are taking leading up to the Sept. 28 meeting of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA, which is considering whether to reimburse some of the construction cost for the new school. Hingham has until Aug. 19 to submit all schematic designs and feasibility studies for the MSBA's review.

School Committee members will additionally host an Aug. 4 forum for neighbor and abutters, and will host a School Building Committee meeting open to the public on Aug. 10 in order to discuss the progress of the Middle School project.

Although many of the numbers are still up in the air, Ray Estes, a School Committee member and chairman of the Building Committee, said the committee should have more exact numbers within the next couple of weeks.

“Once we meet with [the selectmen] on Aug. 9 … that next nine or 10 days leading up to MSBA submittal will include cost assessments, where the numbers will be crunched to get close to the figure we expect to get from the MSBA,” Estes said. “We’ll be in a position before we submit to the MSBA to give the selectmen and town administrator a number, or a close range, in terms of what we believe the project will cost.”

Currently, the town is expecting the $50 million to $$57 million project, with as much as 44 percent reimbursed by the MSBA. That percentage is to be finalized at the MSBA's September meeting.

From there, Estes said the town expects to go to a Special Town Meeting in October to secure the money for the project. If all goes according to plan, the job will go out to bid by January.

Thus far, the school has conducted site investigations and met with the Conservation Commission to approve the wetlands delineations. In addition, the building committee has met with the design firm Ai3 to discuss the education plan, size of the rooms, site investigation work, and space summary.

The community meetings will review all of this and more, although there is limited chance for feedback on the design to make much of a difference.

“This is the model school program, where we’re adapting an existing design…aesthetically, it’s different, but it’s similar in design feature. There isn’t a whole lot we can do with the confines of the model,” Estes said.

If all goes according to plan, Hingham hopes to have a new school in place by the summer of 2014.

Once students move into the new building, the old school would be demolished to make room for additional parking and athletic fields.

At this time, Hingham officials expect that demolition costs will also be reimbursable.

The Hingham Middle School Neighbor And Abutter Forum will be hosted Thursday, Aug, 4 at 7 p.m. in the Hingham Middle School Library. The building will be open for a walk-around, at 6:15 p.m. prior to the meeting.

Additionally, the School Building Committee Meeting will be hosted Wednesday, Aug.10 at 7 p.m. in the Hingham Town Hall, Central Meeting Room.

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