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North Adams' Costs Drop for Greylock School Project
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:38AM / Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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The estimated cost to the city has been reduced to $19-23 million from $23-29 million.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The estimated cost of a new Greylock School to the city has dropped by millions of dollars.
Jesse Saylor of TSKP Studio, the project designer, said the Massachusetts School Building Authority had dramatically increased the amount of funding available for projects.
"Now, we could see it at $19 [million] and our range is $19 [million] to $23 [million]," he told the School Building Committee last week. "Whereas before it went all the way up to near $29 [million].
The committee had been shocked at the cost projections presented last spring: the options had been estimated at up to $90 million and the city's share  between $25 million and $45 million. 
Those figures had come down some after historic comparisons with other projects but the committee was still looking at between $21 million and nearly $30 million for a new Greylock School. 
The lower end of the city's share had been predicated on the MSBA increasing its cap on reimbursement per square foot from $432 to $510. 
"The MSBA has increased its cost cap and and increased it more than we had hoped so that's it in a nutshell," said Saylor. "The cap has been raised to $550 for construction costs."
In addition, the site costs are 10 percent of the square-foot cap, so that's been raised as well for a total of $610 per square foot.  
The project cost of $61 million hasn't changed since the last meeting; what has changed is the amount that state is willing to reimburse. 
The MSBA is also changing how it looks at outside federal funding toward projects. Communities that used grant funding in their contributions would see the state's reimbursement decrease equally.
But that's changed with the federal Inflation Reduction Act, said Saylor, and could allow for items such as solar energy, heat pumps and EV charging stations.
"We don't have a number today to talk about as to how that affects the cost to the city," he said. "It's a little more complicated than we can calculate just yet. ...
"If you can get them for free, we should look at that very, very closely."
Superintendent Barbara Malkas said she and Business Administrator Nancy Rausch and Randall Luther of TSKP had taken an MSBA webinar on the act and that the potential savings are substantial. 
Some projects have already saved in excess of $6 million, she said. 
"So while we don't have clear numbers with respect to our potential project, we do know that other schools that have recently have been able to access these funds at a significant cost savings," she said. 
Luther said they would have do some calculations on whether investing in a more expensive system like geothermal was wise when a cheaper mechanical system would suffice. 
Rauscher said Mass Save was very involved in the webinar and was offering communities help with analytics and determining best choices. 
Committee member Benjamin Lamb noted that the school needs to be sustainable over a period of 50 years. 
"I think the savings over the long term is certainly something to be considering in this overall calculation," he said. As well, he continued, the school would be a shelter-in-place location and having redundancies and resilient systems like solar should be considered a public safety matter.
But fellow committee member David Moresi cautioned that the high tech equipment being pushed by the state comes with other costs.
"Keep in mind future ongoing maintenance," he said. "This equipment is very expensive to maintain. It requires a very skilled set of people to maintain this equipment. The city has very little capacity, I think, both on their facility side and in their in-house management."
The new Greylock School proposal will be presented to the MSBA Board of Directors on Dec. 13 for a vote on moving into the schematic phase. That phase is expected to take about four months.
Matthew Sturz of Colliers International, the owner's project manager, said their presentation to the Facilities Assessment Subcommittee earlier this month was given high marks and commended for its educational program. 
"It was very positive discussion in our view, and it started to move us forward and start to think about taking the next steps and developing the design," agreed Saylor.  
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