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Medford High science lab project awaits City Council approval

Posted by Kathy McCabe  September 13, 2012 04:11 PM

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A $13.8 million plan to build new science labs at Medford High School could be headed to the City Council for a bond authorization on Tuesday.

Council approval is required before the plan may be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority to qualify for 60 percent reimbursement from federal stimulus funding.

"We're hopeful the council will give us the go-ahead financially, so we can instruct the architect to draw up schematics," School Superintendent Roy Belson said in an interview. "Then we can get our submission" to the state.

City Council President Robert A. Maicco could not be reached for comment.

City Clerk Ed Finn said the bond request was tabled at the council's Aug. 7 meeting. A councilor would have to make a motion to take it off the table for it to be discussed on Tuesday, Finn said.

Medford is one of 10 school districts statewide chosen for the $60 million Science Laboratory Initiative, made possible with federal funds from the 2009 stimulus bill. The MSBA has set an aggressive deadline for projects to be approved, and construction started, by 2013.

The goal is to win council approval this month, so that plans could be submitted to the MSBA by December. The authority's board could then vote on the plan at its January meeting, Belson said.

"I hope the council goes with this," Belson said. "It's being funded by federal money. It's got a shelf life. It's not going to be there, if we don't get approval soon."

The School Committee in August voted to select two possible options -- which would cost the city either $5.4 million or $5.6 million, depending on which is chosen. Each plan would build eight new labs, renovate nine labs, and install a new roof on the 42,000 square foot lab area at the high school. But only one plan would renovate windows, according to an outline of options.

The School Committee requested the council to hold a special meeting in August to consider the bond request. Approval would have given the School Committee enough time to submit the plans for approval at the authority's November meeting.

But the council did not act on a request from Mayor Michael J. McGlynn, the School Commitee chairman.

Tuesday's meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. in the council chamber, is the first scheduled since Aug. 7. Belson said he is prepared to make a strong case to the council for the bond authorization.

"We really need it. Our science labs are 42 years old, with most of the original equipment still in place," he said. "I would hope the council would see their way to support it."

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.

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