Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

November 29, 2012

SBC Chairman: Bancroft needs more money to be finished


The Andover Townsman

---- — Editor, Townsman:

I appreciate the Nov. 22 article on the Bancroft School Construction Project bidding overruns. The School Building Committee is committed to keeping the community fully informed about the status of the project and the problems we are currently facing.

To that end, I would like to clarify a few items in the article. First, while the headlines and body of the article indicate an expected $5 million overrun, I would like to make it clear that we do not yet know the full extent of the anticipated overage. The $5 million is a convenient round number, but we are still receiving and analyzing bids and looking at other items within the budget to determine an exact shortfall. The number could be higher or lower, as we have explained at several meetings in the past month.

The current construction budget overruns can be traced to the appeals and litigation filed by abutters when we were first ready to bid the project in the summer of 2011. We have a contract with the MSBA called the Project Funding Agreement (PFA). It not only spells out the scope of the project (size of the building, number of students to be served, educational specifications, etc.), but it clearly defines the project budget, as well as the total reimbursement amount from MSBA.

Our PFA was “set in stone” in the fall of 2010, before the Special Town Meeting that approved the funding and before the year-long delay we experienced due to the litigation; its prices were based on an anticipated bid of summer 2011. Despite the fact that this delay has pushed the project into an entirely different bidding and construction market, the MSBA does not allow us to revisit or alter our PFA. We have, however, undergone an extensive value-management process of our own that removed almost $3 million in items from the project, and we continue to constantly assess ways to bring down costs wherever possible.

In the article, Selectman Paul Salafia is quoted as saying, “We would have to stop construction and assess all of the possibilities after that, including probably a redesign to downsize the school in some way.” I want to make sure that no one is left with the impression that a major redesign of the school is an option. Such a redesign would void our Project Funding Agreement with the MSBA, and it would result in the loss of all of our reimbursement from the MSBA (approximately $17 million). In addition, the foundation is already complete, and steel erection will begin in just a week. Even if redesign were an option, the design costs of such work, as well as the increased construction costs associated with a delay in the project, would invariably result in an increase in costs larger than those now anticipated.

Finally, while not directly quoting Salafia, the article leaves the impression that the school will be open in the fall of 2014, with or without the closing of the construction budget gap. Simply and bluntly put, we cannot complete the project with current available funding.

We welcome any questions from the community. Our meetings are held every other Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. All are posted on the town website (andoverma.gov). There is also a link on that site to our project website under the project information heading, and the members of the SBC can be reached by email at sbc@aps1.net.

Tom Deso

Chairman, School Building Committee

81 High St.