West Tisbury School repair bill is $1.6 million


It will cost $1,557,000 million to renovate and repair the West Tisbury School according to a professional estimate provided by school business administrator Amy Tierney to the West Tisbury selectmen and Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) school committee Monday.

The two groups held a joint meeting at West Tisbury School Monday night to discuss the repair project and to hash out differences of opinion about how to manage a project that has continued to grow in scope and cost following the discovery that the windows needed to be replaced.

An architectural review of the school building revealed other serious design flaws that date back to 1973 and have created other issues, such as roof leaks and heating and ventilation problems.

The school committee awarded the project’s design contract to Keenan and Kenny Architects in Falmouth last June. The architects will return next week to finalize the renovation plans and revise the cost estimations accordingly, Ms. Tierney confirmed in an email to The Times yesterday.

“The architects have been working hard for us in putting together these plans and specs, and also the bid,” she said at Monday night’s meeting. “We’re now looking at a one-phase project for this summer.”

The scope of the project

Rider Levett Bucknall Construction Consultants prepared the cost estimates. Ms. Tierney said the firm came highly recommended for its work on Tisbury’s emergency services facility project.

The cost estimations include $143,546 for site work; $240,783 for wood, plastics, and composites; $252,821 for thermal and moisture protection; $296,135 for window openings; $31,858 for finishes; $11,480 for specialties; and $510,378 for margins and adjustments, which Ms. Tierney said equates to overhead and profits.

Other project costs include $20,000 for a clerk of the works, $20,000 for the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) and $30,000 for bond issuance costs. Ms. Tierney explained that although the fees for the clerk of the works and OPM may seem low, part of the expense for an OPM, who may also end up being the clerk of the works, is usually associated with evaluating and selecting the design firm, which has already been done.

The cost estimations include a 10 percent design/estimating contingency and a 20 percent “Island factor” to cover the higher cost of doing business on Martha’s Vineyard. The estimations also assume the project will be competitively bid and requires the contractor to pay prevailing wages.

Who do you represent?

The building project has created disagreement between selectmen and school committee over the extent to which the town would be represented on the UIRSD committee in its capacity as a building committee. School superintendent James Weiss suggested that selectmen appoint one representative.

At the West Tisbury selectmen’s meeting on March 2, selectman Richard Knabel and selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter expressed dissatisfaction at having only one representative on the building project committee, since the town owns the school building and will pay most of the repair costs. Selectman Cynthia Mitchell agreed one person was not enough and suggested two or three as a compromise.

Mr. Manter, who is also a member of the school committee, said he did not believe that its members have the expertise to oversee the project. He suggested that the selectmen appoint members to the school building project committee with strong building experience background and familiarity with shingling, roofing, and window issues.

Much of the discussion Monday focused on the question of whether the UIRSD school committee, a regional entity with members from the three towns, including three from West Tisbury, should continue to manage the project.

“It’s our position that we feel that a properly constituted building committee needs to be in charge of this project, and that that committee contain sufficient expertise to deal with technical construction issues,” West Tisbury selectman chairman Richard Knabel said. “Because obviously, there is a fair amount of money involved here, and we really think this is not a simple project by any means. And in order for the work to be done properly, it needs to have people who know about construction.”

“I think it’s pretty clear, based on what I read in the newspaper and was discussed already, going forward there needs to be a building committee,” Mr. Weiss said. “What that committee would look like is something we can talk about. I’m not comfortable going forward without a building committee, when in the newspaper, public people are saying the school system really isn’t up to the job.”

The three selectmen all attended Monday night’s meeting, although Mr. Manter, in the absence of UIRSD school committee chairman Dan Cabot, ran the meeting in his behalf.

West Tisbury treasurer Kathy Logue attended, as well. She and Ms. Mitchell also serve on the town’s capital improvements planning committee. West Tisbury executive secretary Jennifer Rand sat in the audience.

In response to Mr. Knabel’s comments, Mr. Weiss said that although he agreed that the building committee should be a regional entity with representatives from all three towns, much like the school committee already in place, he was concerned about the timeliness of organizing a new one. If the process dragged on, it might increase the project’s costs. “I wish we had had this discussion two months ago,” he said.

Ms. Mitchell again offered a compromise. Instead of impeding progress by setting up a new committee, she suggested the town could serve its purposes for representation on the project through the existing school committee, which already has regional participation.

“So what’s wrong with several people, three, joining the school committee, and agreeing that that group is now the building committee?” Ms. Mitchell suggested. “The three people being from the town of West Tisbury, which is the owner of the building anyway, so that there is an appropriate amount.”

Mr. Weiss agreed, as did the school committee. Mr. Manter and committee members Roxanne Ackerman of Aquinnah and Michael Marcus of West Tisbury voted to request the West Tisbury selectmen to appoint three people to the school building project committee.

What happens when?

Under the terms of the capital formula in the UIRSD agreement between West Tisbury, Aquinnah, and Chilmark, West Tisbury will foot 80 percent of the repair bill and the other two towns 10 percent each.

The school district set aside $250,000 towards window repairs at West Tisbury School, following approval by voters in the three member towns at town meetings last year. The UIRSD school committee then put out a request for proposals and hired the architect firm.

The architects have since completed the project design and put bid documents together, Ms. Tierney said.

Funds for the project would be financed by the school district through the sale of bonds, and the debt assessed to the member towns. About $60,000 of the $250,000 already allocated for window repair has been spent so far, Ms. Tierney confirmed in a phone call yesterday. The remaining $190,000 would be put towards the $1,557,000 needed for the total renovation project, and reduce the amount the school district would have to borrow, she explained.

Ms. Tierney said the timeline for the project is very tight and that the building committee would be looking to advertise bids for the general contractor’s contract and the OPM contract very soon. The project is scheduled for advertisement in the state’s Central Register for two weeks, starting March 30.

The deadline for sub-bids would be April 14 and general bids April 28, with the contract awarded on May 10. The bid for the general contract includes a penalty clause with a hefty fee for every day the project remains unfinished after September 1, she added.

The West Tisbury selectmen said they thought they could select and appoint the new committee representatives fairly quickly, but would not expect the school committee to stop its work on the project in the interim.

Since construction is tentatively scheduled to start on June 24, Mr. Weiss said he and school administrators already are considering the possibility that contingency plans may be needed for summer activities usually held at the West Tisbury School, such as special education summer school, preschool, and the West Tisbury Library’s annual book sale.