Q & A with School Building Co-Chairs

Why did the Middle School’s costs increase this much? Q & A with School Building Co-Chairs Pat Nelson and Dawn Guarriello
January 11, 2023
  1. Why is there no funding from the MSBA? Did we apply? Who made the decision to go ahead without it?

The Concord School Committee applied for MSBA funding four times and was declined each time. Given that, the Concord School Committee began the new school process in 2019 by requesting funding for the initial phase of the project which was supported by the community.

  1. How and who decided the town needed a new middle school?

It has been a long standing, widespread belief in the community that the two current schools were inadequate. Throughout the process, there has been little debate about whether we need a new middle school.

In 2016 a facilities planning committee was formed composed of 15 community members.  The Committee engaged with Finegold Alexander, Architects to study options for addressing the poor conditions, overcrowding, operational inefficiencies and environmental issues associated with Peabody and Sanborn.

In April 2019 over two-thirds of participants at Town Meeting approved a feasibility study for constructing a new Middle School with an amendment requiring the new building would be Net Zero Ready.  This Vote was overwhelmingly approved in a ballot vote.

  1. At what point after the STM last January did you realize you needed more money? Based on what?

Typical cost estimating for a project occurs at Feasibility Study, Schematic Design, Design Development, 60 percent Contract Documents, and 90 percent Contract Documents. The next planned cost estimate after the Special Town Meeting was the Design Development estimate in June 2022. This cost estimate was based on the Design Development plans and specifications.  The reconciled construction cost estimate was $86.1M. This estimate was roughly $5.4M over the approved construction budget of $80.7M, which required the project team and School Building Committee (SBC) to come up with a plan for combating the budget overrun.

  1. Were cuts or a redesign considered before going ahead with the larger amount?

As part of the strategy to reduce construction costs during the Design Development phase, the SBC reviewed value management options which both reduced or altered scope (redesigned scope) over a 12-week period from the end of June 2022 to the end of September 2022 in which close to $1.9M worth of savings was realized. This brought the estimated construction cost of the project to $84.2M, lessening the budget overrun to roughly $3.5M. Additional value management was reviewed and assessed by the SBC during the 60 percent CD estimating phase which occurred in October and November 2022. The 60 percent CD estimate was reconciled at $86.4M and an additional $110K worth of value management was accepted by the SBC thereafter. The increase in the 60 percent CD estimate was due to continued construction labor and material inflation in the construction market through Q3 of 2022, which unfortunately discounted the previous value management work done by the SBC. In November 2022, the gap between the construction budget and 60 percent CD estimate was roughly $5.6M. At this time, the SBC arrived at the realization that no further value management could be taken without significantly impacting the education plan and community programming for the new middle school. Therefore, the SBC was reluctant to reduce or alter more project scope. A budget increase would be required to stay true to the education plan and community programming for the project.

  1. Why is there no Plan B? Why aren’t you presenting the town with a design that meets the $102.8 budget?

Plan B is to revert back to the $102.8M budget and would require approximately $11.4M in scope reduction, which would not allow for the new school to be built to meet the full needs of the students, faculty, and community of Concord. If pursued, an entirely different design would need to be drawn due to the significant cuts required to save $11.4M. Our committee did not have the time or fees to ask the Architect to draw a second building design. To do this would have have a schedule impact on the project.

  1. How much state aid has the town received in the past when the town built the three elementary schools and the high school?

Willard was not an MSBA project.

MSBA contributions to Concord schools:

  1. Why aren’t you building in stages, given the money already allocated?

The SBC committed in 2021 to delivering the project through a Design-Bid-Build (DBB) construction method. It is not possible to bid a project in the state of Massachusetts without having the funds secured, so the budget must be aligned with the current construction estimate prior to the bid phase planned for March-April 2023.