We need a new middle school, but officials also need to be careful to avoid overruns

17 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

I guess you could call this our very first cost overrun on the new Middle School project. But this one was also pretty much unavoidable.

Turns out that Peabody won’t be invited to participate  in the Mass. School Building Authority‘s model school program  for the construction of a new Higgins, and as a result the new school could end up costing taxpayers at least $3 million more, putting the new estimated price tag at $90 million.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt recently revealed that the MSBA  voted against inviting Peabody into the model school program  because there is no model middle school that matches Peabody’s needs. In other words, our middle school population is too large to fit one of the existing, off-the-shelf models.

Another  big advantage of being in the model school program is the guarantee of a 5-point higher reimbursement rate from the state. Next step in this process is for the School Building Committee to present a final plan to the MSBA for approval in the spring.

Sounds like this first overrun was definitely unavoidable, but this might also be a good time to insist that our elected officials proceed cautiously with our tax dollars when it comes to avoiding future overruns.

Although not many would disagree that we definitely need to build a new middle school, it’s important that the Mayor also keep his eye on escalating costs, and cut back on the plan and some “amenities” to avoid a larger tax burden. We want a nice, new modern building for our kids, but it’s important to note that the education that goes on in that new building is more important than the structure itself.

As with all publicly funded construction projects, it’s likely that there will be more cost overruns.

We need that new school, but we also want to make sure we manage this in a fiscally responsible way, so that already overburdened taxpayers don’t get fleeced.

Here are some more details in the Peabody Patch about these latest developments.

This post brought to you by “You Make the Call,” Peabody’s longest-running cable show on the issues of the day.

9 Responses to “We need a new middle school, but officials also need to be careful to avoid overruns”

  1. The Outfront Guy* November 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    hold on a minute here….why wouldn’t we or the MSBA have known on the front end that our new middle school would have been too large for the current ‘model school program’? OG thinks that someone dropped the ball here on the front end of this project. so yes, this project will end up costing us more –don’t these kinds of projects typically come in over vs under budget? this ‘setback’ is just more proof that we just can’t get it right here in Dark City…only we would find a way to turn a positive thing into a more negative thing…and much like the flooding mitigation project this is yet another big city project that we are now agreeable to give more chin rubbing time to yet under prior administrations we couldn’t wait to get the deplorable Higgins building leveled….lots of doublespeak going on here…and that’s how OG sees it ….

  2. Bob Croce November 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    I don’t know if I agree with you here, OG. What happened with this was that — while the mayor probably knew it was a longshot — the idea was to try and at least save money by going with the model school program. But you have to admit that the Higgins is a unique school because of it’s size. That’s why I say this overrun seems unavoidable to me.

    But I do think we the taxpayers need to be vigilant on this moving forward. There are bound to be more cost overruns, but we need to look at each overrun and decide if we need to cut back on some of the “amenities” to keep the costs from getting way out of control.

  3. Anonymous November 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    That was directed at OG and you Bob. When you say “more” cost overruns it is very misleading. There have been NO cost overruns to date on the project. That would be impossible since there is no final design on the project with a final projected budget. You may want to rethink blogging if you are going to make false and misleading statements.

  4. Bob Croce November 17, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    There was nothing false or misleading about what I wrote. The original estimate is now higher since the project didn’t fit into the model school program. I wrote that it was pretty much unavoidable, which I stand by. You are playing semantics now. Technically, you are correct. There are no “official” cost “overruns” yet. But the project will definitely cost more now.

    As a taxpayer, in this case, I’m OK with it costing $3 million more and receiving a lower state reimbursement, since it’s the only way to get it built. OG doesn’t seem as comfortable with that. After following this, I think we all knew that it was a longshot that the new Higgins, because of its size requirements. would fit with one of the existing models.

    I think you missed the point of the entire post, though. I wasn’t being critical of the extra $3 million. The point of the post was that the city needs, under the mayor’s leadership, to keep an eye the project to limit all go forward cost overruns. We need to avoid situations like this: http://activerain.com/blogsview/1830886/newton-north-high-opens-the-most-expensive-school-in-massachusetts-history

    We need this new middle school, and the building is important, but it’s also important that we keep Peabody an affordable community for everyone.

    As for your final comment: I don’t think I need to re-think anything. The blog’s goal is to keep the community informed. I know that might not make some elected officials comfortable, but we’re going to be here as a watchdog for the citizens of Peabody. So keep those comments coming.

  5. the Outfront Guy* November 18, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    calm down Batman…OG is a big boy and I will let me pessimistic view speak for itself….we know two things right now…1) the new Higgins Middle School is probably going to cost more than the original projections due to unrealistic expectations that it MIGHT fit into a model school framework 2) most projects of this size and scope typically come in OVER budget–because the cost goes up the longer we wait !!!! …now my views will only be proven with time…provided of course that all of this building occurs within my lifetime…and that’s how OG sees it..

  6. the Outfront Guy* November 18, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    and to you ANON…thanks for pointing out the nice website….once again I see nothing to really assure me that the pace of the project is inspiring when I see the most recent update on your website back in July…that was about four months ago…now there will be many here in Dark City who will say ‘c’mon OG, cut them some slack…these things take time”….and therein lies my problem with Dark City…too much willingness and acceptance that this is way it is here….and that’s how OG sees it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] compromise with the city’s unions on healthcare to save taxpayers millions, approval of plans and financing on a much-needed new middle school, and the steps he’s taken toward business development in an effort to get more revenue by […]

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    […] Making matters more complicated are the current infrastructural needs all over the city. Among the largest projects are the tens of millions to be spent on a flood mitigation plan for Peabody Square, and a $40-plus million dollar (and much-needed) new middle school. […]

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