Records show extensions often granted by MSBA

Tisbury School project will have to get back in line for state funding.

Richard Marks, president of Daedalus Projects and the owner’s project manager, speaks at a recent meeting. Marks offered to work on seeking project cuts if a 30-day extension was granted. — Gabrielle Mannino

The town of Hopkinton was given a one-year extension by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) after failed school votes at town meeting and the town election in 2011.

The town ultimately went in a new direction, and filed for a new project that is scheduled to open in 2018.

Records released by the MSBA through a public records request made by The Times show a fairly liberal policy of providing extensions to communities where there are failed votes. Of 14 communities that lacked voter support either at town meeting or at the polls since 2010, the MSBA granted extensions to all but four of them. In two of the cases, Amherst and Lincoln asked for additional time to submit an entirely new project after a failed vote, but the MSBA’s policy makes it clear that the location and size of a project can’t change. The price tag can go down, but only if the educational needs of students can still be met.

“We are cognizant of the amount of time and effort that goes into a potential project and understand that there are sometimes mitigating circumstances that arise, such as a failed vote,” Matthew Donovan, director of administration and operations for the MSBA, wrote in an email. “When/if a project does not get the local support needed we do consider, on a case by case basis, the factors that went into a failed vote for the board-approved project, and might entertain possible extensions. If Tisbury was to send us a notification by Tuesday, May 8th, that they had a potential viable plan to revote the same project, then an extension would probably be granted.”

MSBA records show that in half of the cases where extensions were granted, the community ultimately approved the project.

That’s the direction the Tisbury School building committee hoped to take. In a 14-2 vote Monday, April 30, the committee said it would seek an extension to see if it could salvage the state’s $14.6 million grant, which was contingent on the town approving its share of the funding. Monday’s vote came after protracted debate, with some people saying the committee needed to honor the vote of the townspeople, and others saying that the vote was so close it should be reconsidered.

Selectmen killed any thoughts of that three days later, when the board voted unanimously not to seek an extension or a revote on the $46.6 million project, which failed by 21 votes at the polls.

Consultants on the project, Daedelus Projects and Turkowski2 Architects, had requested selectmen consider asking for a 30-day extension from the MSBA. During that time, the consultants said they would work at no extra charge to the town to try to pare down the project’s bottom line, and seek through the town’s finance department a way to ease the impact on taxpayers.

Selectmen acknowledged receipt of that letter, but took their vote nonetheless, with no other public discussion.

Essentially, communities that look to change the scope of a project, which is what Tisbury will have to do in light of the selectmen’s vote, have to get back in line and submit a new statement of interest to get the ball rolling again, according to Donovan’s email.

This year’s funding requests were due April 9, he wrote.

In his email, Donovan wrote that for this year’s funding cycle, MSBA received 70 applications for extensive repairs, renovations, and new school construction.

With Hopkinton, the home of the Boston Marathon starting line, as a guide, it appears there is a long road ahead before a restructured school project will go before the MSBA for a possible state grant.