Hingham officials have negotiated a $448,531 reduction in the penalty associated with tearing down an addition at the Middle School.
The $5.9 million addition, constructed in 1996, was intended to last decades, and the debt associated with the project was amortized over 20 years. Although that debt is still being paid off, the existing school and the expansion will be torn down to make way for a $58.4 million middle school, which will be constructed next door.
Because the expansion, which was partially funded by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, is being torn down earlier than its intended lifespan, the authority informed Hingham School Committee members earlier this year that it would take back $782,974 of the initial grant given to Hingham for that expansion.
Hingham officials staunchly opposed the "clawback," and through letters and conference calls with MSBA officials, requested that it be reduced.
Last week, Hingham received word that the MSBA would take back $334,443 of the initial grant, effectively lowering the penalty by 56 percent.
“We made our case with them…we want to make our case and give people an opportunity to think about what you said,” said Town Administrator Ted Alexiades. “We were respectful of giving them time to think about our argument and we think they did.”
“I think it’s a terrific result,” agreed Ray Estes, School Committee member and chairman of the School Building Committee. “Our argument had been look we’re not repurposing this building, we’re taking it out of service. So we have specific circumstances in this case, because MSBA participated in the decision to build a new school rather than renovate the old one…so we thought we had a strong argument that the clawback should be significantly reduced.”
The $334,443 will be recouped over a seven-year period from the bucket of grant money given to the town for all MSBA projects in Hingham.
Although the timeline was also initially up for debate, the clawback will still begin in 2013. Hingham officials initially said that because the existing school would be in use until 2014 that the schedule seemed premature.
The news of the reduced clawback follows other good news about the ongoing construction of Hingham Middle School, which is ahead of schedule and under budget.
Hingham officials finalized the budget reduction of the project at a selectmen’s meeting last week after general contractor bids came in lower than expected.
Overall, the $2.5 million in savings will be split amongst the MSBA and the town, lowering the project price from $60.9 million to $58.4 million, and lowering the town’s portion of the check from $35 million to $33.6 million.
“We have made a number of efforts to save Hingham taxpayers as much as we could every step of the way, beginning with the design phase with aggressive engineering … and having the benefit of a low bid from general contractor in May,” Estes said.
The project is also a week or two ahead of schedule, with the foundation work taking place ahead of projections.
Steel will be delivered by Oct. 22, with erection of the building to start soon thereafter.
For town officials, the forward progress of the project is exciting, but to be expected.
According to Alexiades, the school committee builds a project and manages the budget to the bottom line, as evidenced in several other projects they have undertaken in recent years.