Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


October 4, 2012

Increased costs, lawsuit have altered school plan some

The plan for the new Bancroft Elementary School approved at Town Meeting has seen more than $1.4 million in changes, and the loss of two playing fields. Officials expect to know within the next two weeks if price fluctuation will have any more effect on the school plan.

A lawsuit by neighbors upset with elements of the project postponed construction by about a year, until a settlement was reached. Town officials say that construction costs rose during the year of delay, leading to an estimated $2 million increase. As part of the settlement, the town agreed to reduce the number of fields on the site from three to one, at least for now.

The loss of the two playing fields means the new building will have less play area than the current building, by about 7,500 square feet, according to Tom Deso, School Building Committee chairman, “and we’ll have 120 more students on the site.”

School Committee member Annie Gilbert said she expects the town will look at putting playing fields on water-department land on the side of the school from the West Knoll-area neighbors who sued. This is land where Bancroft Elementary’s portable classrooms are now.

The town also has spent $50,000 on a retaining wall for the neighbors, $40,000 in legal costs and $200,000 to change architectural drawings.

The School Building Committee found $2 million in possible cuts or ways to do things differently, said Deso. He said town officials have agreed to about $1,450,000 of these changes, and are holding the remaining $550,000 in reserve, until they is sure the cuts are necessary.

The changes already approved include ideas such as seeding the lawn area instead of laying sod, saving $100,000 by buying smaller trees and shrubs than originally planned, and moving some items such as bookcases out of the construction budget and into the furniture and equipment budget that will be spent later in the project. Smaller items include removing $90,000 for new playground equipment and $10,000 for a climbing wall in the gym.

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