METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – The Finance Committee Monday signed off on Mayor Arthur Vigeant’s request to use $1 million in free cash to conduct a feasibility study for a school building project.
Earlier this year, the Massachusetts School Building Authority moved the city into the eligibility phase to receive funding for the construction of a new elementary school or renovations to Richer School. Being eligible does not guarantee state money, according to the authority’s website.
The eligibility phase is the first in an eight-step process districts must complete to receive state money that would pay for about half the cost of a project. During the 270-day eligibility period, districts are required to complete tasks, such as forming a building committee and setting aside money for a feasibility study.
“The needs assessment is the most important part,” said City Council President Ed Clancy.
Nicholas Milano, mayoral executive aide, told Finance Committee members that during the feasibility study, the city will hire an owner’s project manager and a designer who will study options for the Richer School, including whether renovating or building anew is the best course.
“They’ll look at everything,” said Milano, who previously worked for the state agency.
The authority is expected to reimburse the city about 54 percent of the cost of the study. Vigeant is hopeful the total cost will be less than $1 million.
Once the study is completed, the city will request funding for a project from the City Council. If a project is approved, Vigeant anticipates construction will begin in spring 2018 with an opening in fall 2020.
Vigeant estimated a new building would cost $30 million to $35 million.
“I want to see a first-class building,” said Clancy.
The mayor is forming a building committee, which will include School Committee members, city councilors, city officials and others.
“We just want to make sure we have a solid committee in place,” he said.
The city filed a statement of interest with the authority last spring.
In its statement, school officials said classrooms at its elementary schools, specifically Richer, are overcrowded.
Some English language learner classrooms hold up to 25 students at one time due to a lack of space. Instruction for some of those students is provided in shared classrooms alongside students who are not in the language program. Jaworek and Kane schools have similar space crunches.
The full City Council is expected to vote on the committee’s recommendation at its April 25 meeting.
This article by Jeff Malachowski originally appeared here.