Easthampton school bid $5M under budget

  • A drawing of what the new consolidated school in Easthampton will look like when completed. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/17/2019 4:13:19 PM

EASTHAMPTON – The cost to build a new consolidated K-8 school is on track to come in $5 million under budget and will now include projects such as a running track and a roundabout, according to city officials. 

The winning bid from Fontaine Bros. of Springfield to construct the school was approved this month by the School Building Committee and totals approximately $84.9 million, or more than $5 million less than the $90.1 million construction budget.

The project consolidates the city’s three elementary schools — Maple, Center and Pepin — with White Brook Middle School, which will be demolished. It will be constructed on the middle school’s existing site off Park Street. Fontaine Bros. is also the company that built Easthampton High School.

“We have a very good track record with them,” said Tom Brown, chairman of the School Building Committee. “We see nothing but a perfect project coming out.”

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said she expects to sign a contract with the company this month and was pleased with the winning bid. 

“We leveraged every dollar, both the state reimbursement grant and local tax dollars, to get the biggest impact for our students employing a transparent process,” the mayor said in a statement. The winning bid, she said, “meets the expectations of our residents and our mandate to be prudent fiscal managers of taxpayer dollars.” 

The Fontaine Bros. bid, which was also the lowest, included all four additional alternative components of the school: a running track at the athletic field, a roundabout at the new school’s entrance in the vicinity of the intersection of Park Street and South Street, terrazzo flooring in high-pedestrian traffic areas, and a maintenance building. The city received a second bid from Brait Builders Corp. of Marshfield at $85.9 million for the same scope of work.  

Superintendent Allison LeClair described the four projects as “necessary items” to make the school function well for students and families.  The projects were excluded from the base building project to make sure that the school could be built without going over its construction budget, Brown said. 

LaChapelle said that the maintenance building and the terazzo flooring will help with deferred maintenance, which she said is an existing issue at the four schools being consolidated. LeClair noted that the terrazzo flooring, which is also used in high-traffic areas in the high school, is both durable and aesthetically-pleasing.

“They’ll really sustain the building for many years to come,” LeClair said.

LeClair also pointed to the need in the district for a running track. Currently, all of Easthampton’s track and field meets are away, and students practice running around the football field and at the Williston Northampton School nearby. 

“Track started out as a club sport in Easthampton but it has grown to be one of the largest sports that we have,” said LeClair. “That’s why the high school was really advocating for a track.”

LaChapelle said that having a running track will be good for the Girls on the Run program. And Brown said that installing the track during the construction of the school will be more cost-efficient than building one after.

A new roundabout is expected to address public safety issues, with Brown saying that the intersection near where the roundabout will be constructed received an F rating in a traffic study.

“You can’t get any worse than an F,” he said.

Easthampton voters approved an approximately $60 million debt exclusion override in 2018 to fund the school project. In total, the project was projected to cost about $109 million, with about $60 million paid through local property taxes and the rest paid for by the state through the Massachusetts School Building Authority. With the construction costs coming in at about $5 million under budget, Brown said that the total cost is now looking like $104 million.

The school project is expected to take two years to build, with students in 5th through 8th grade scheduled to move in January of 2022 and all students moving into the new building in September 2022.

LeClair said that she thinks work on the project will start this winter, although there will be a ceremonial groundbreaking in the spring, featuring kids and shovels.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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