Board awaits school bids in July

Gym demo on hold; special town meeting remains unscheduled.

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Modular classroom sections along West William Street. The modular classrooms cost $85,000 a month. — Rich Saltzberg

Tisbury’s select board learned Thursday morning that final bids on the Tisbury School project would be ready on July 8. 

“We don’t have real prices yet,” town administrator Jay Grande said. “We have informed estimates.” 

Grande broached the subject of a special town meeting and special town election to address unbudgeted cost increases in the project, but no votes ensued for those events, nor were any dates set aside. September was suggested as a possible month for a town meeting, and November as a month for an election. 

Grande said he may be forced to schedule a town meeting while waiting for hard numbers for the school project. “So that is awkward, but that’s just the reality,” he said. “So once that schedule is finalized based on, let’s say, a September town meeting, the select board will be informed at their next meeting, which is only a few days away, as to that potential schedule.” 

In response to questions by The Times and by Tisbury planning board member Elaine Miller, Grande said the project wasn’t $10 million in the hole, but $5.1 million in the hole, based on figures presented at a recent Tisbury School Committee meeting.

Tisbury School Committee chair Amy Houghton later told The Times $5.1 million was accurate, that it was basically a pre-emptive estimate that covered window replacements, masonry work, utility hookups for the school’s temporary (modular) classrooms, and money for potential lease extensions on the modular classrooms. Houghton said the other $4.9 million that would have brought the deficit to $10 million was eliminated by efficiency engineering applied to the project. 

Houghton said she’d like to have finalized numbers before considering bringing something to the voters. “What we’re trying to do is not go to a town meeting on estimates, but to go to a town meeting on actual bids,” Houghton said.

Grande also said he placed the demolition of the Tisbury School gym on hold in part because he wants to see final bid numbers first, and also because he expected the gym may be needed one last time to host a special town meeting. When asked by The Times if he’d put asbestos abatement on hold, Grande didn’t provide an answer.

Houghton later said it wouldn’t be put on hold. She said the “intent and plan right now is we are abating everything.”

Houghton also said kids are tentatively scheduled to enter the modular classrooms in January, but there’s an effort afoot to get them in sooner. That all depends on how quickly the utilities to those modulars can be installed. Houghton said the modulars cost a lot per month, so the school committee and the town have a lot of incentive to get the kids out of the school building and into the modulars so the project can get into high gear and then wrap up in a timely manner.

“Every month they cost us $85,000,” she said of the modulars. 

At the meeting, select board chair Larry Gomez praised Grande’s work on the school to date. 

“I can say that Jay’s doing a very fine job on this project, and come hell or high water, this will get going,” Gomez said.

Planning board member Ben Robinson requested the town release all the design changes made to the project in an effort to cut costs. Select board member John Cahill made the same request.

Grande said he hoped to have the material available in the afternoon. 

“We can talk and debate this all we want, but without those bid numbers, we’re no further today than we were yesterday,” select board member Roy Cutrer said. “So let’s get the bid numbers and then move forward, then debate it, then make decisions.”

In other business, the select board voted unanimously to accept the high school capital improvement funding formula agreed upon by the all-Island working group