Tisbury School gym demo proves pivotal 

School costs and funding depend on when the gym can be razed.

The Tisbury School Building Committee learned Tuesday afternoon that the timing demolition of the gym will have an effect on costs and special town meeting scheduling. — Rich Saltzberg

Tisbury School Building Committee members learned Tuesday afternoon that the demolition of the school’s old brick gym plays a critical role in both when and where unfunded portions of the now $56 million school renovation and addition project will be addressed at a special town meeting. 

Committee members also learned the gym demolition has the potential to add to the cost of the project if it’s delayed. The project is presently estimated to be $5.1 million in the hole, down from a figure of $10 million, following cost-cutting measures applied to the school design. Tisbury wants to hold a special town meeting to cover that $5.1 million deficit, and has traditionally held town meetings in the school gym. Project managers want the demolition of that gym to begin no later than August 5; however, school and town officials have previously said September appears the earliest month a special town meeting can be held. 

Tisbury Building Committee chair Michael Watts said other special town meeting sites are being considered in town, but options to hold such a meeting outside the borders of Tisbury, as many towns did during that pandemic, appears no longer permitted by the legislature. Adding to the dilemma are the modular classrooms that will be used to form a temporary school during the main phases of the project. These modulars cost $85,000 per month. Any delay in the demolition of the gym threatens to prolong the monthly payments.

Moreover, as Jonathan Rich put it, if the demolition work, which will start with an asbestos abatement, doesn’t begin in early August, there will likely be a “light delay” in project completion. Rich, who is CEO of W.T. Rich, the construction manager at risk for the project, acknowledged to Watts that would translate into more money, because it basically requires people like the construction supervisor, for example, to remain on the job longer than expected. 

Another major factor in the gym demolition is what the final bid numbers for the school turn out to be. Once those are in, school and town officials will find out if the project is further over budget, less over budget, or in line with prior projections. 

Reiterating what Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande told the select board last week, Harvey Heskenas, a W.T. Rich senior project manager, told the committee the final bids for the project were due July 8. 

“We’re anticipating a rough budget the week of 7/11,” Haskenas said but cautioned, “that’s providing we have favorable bidder participation.”

Heskenas went on to say W.T. Rich is engaged in “outreach to the trade bidders and nontrade bidders to ascertain how many bidders we have out there, where the weaknesses may be as far as scope goes, and just generally trying to talk up the job to ensure that we get good participation. If the participation is not favorable, we may have to kick the budget assessment out a bit, depending on what we’re missing, how much we’re missing.”

Until those numbers are in and reviewed, Tisbury School Committee chair Amy Houghton previously told The Times, it’s hard to plan for a town meeting.

“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.

Both Houghton and Grande previously said they anticipated a special town meeting in September. 

Watts told the committee that among the other locations being considered for a town meeting was the Tisbury Emergency Services Facility. 

“A couple of ideas that popped around would be to pull the fire trucks out on a nice day and meet in the bays in there for a town meeting,” Watts said. “Or under a tent. We could do that on the west side, or out behind the Emergency Services Building, if we were so inclined. So I think those are discussions that still have to happen.”

Heskenas told the committee the demolition contractor has been selected. 

“The notice of award is actually being issued this week, and that will go to Costello Dismantling.” 

In an email to The Times Wednesday, Watt shared the demolition price:

“The demolition and abatement cost as of today will be $2,471,900,” he wrote.

Watts reminded the committee that a delay in scheduling abatement through the demolition contractor translates into a longer term for modular leases and therefore more costs — $85,00 a month. “So we’d like to get out of those things as fast as possible,” Watts said. 

Watts said the gym is expected to be the final piece of the project students and staff will return to in the new school, therefore he hoped to exit the modular classrooms early, get into the redone school, and “then finish the work on the gym as we go.”

“If push comes to shove,” Heskenas said, “we would have to phase the gym in later. It’s not something that we have not done in the past. You know, it’s an inconvenience to everybody, but it’s not unusual for us to do something like that.”

Haskenas said by the next committee meeting, which is expected in early July, he’ll have scheduling done for the asbestos abatement that is part of the gym demolition process. 

Watts sought assurance Tisbury’s summer school and abatement wouldn’t overlap. Watts said, “There’s a lot of families and a lot of kids that will be coming and going from the building.”

Heskenas confirmed there wouldn’t be an overlap.

Summer school will start July 11 and end Aug. 4, Watts later told The Times.

Heskenas also gave an update on the modular classroom preparations. He said three of the modular classrooms are “in place, and they are being stitched together.”

Modulars for administration are on standby in the school parking lot, he said, until underground utility work for them gets finished. Underground utility work “will happen shortly,” he said, starting with water and sewer, or “sanitary,” as Heskenas described it. 

Watts asked if the work will cause disruptions on Spring Street. Heskenas said tying into the sewer line in the road will “probably” cause a few days of disruption.

“Probably one day to excavate — to expose, one day to tap into the line, and probably one day to cover it up.”

He said the work isn’t scheduled yet. 

A portion of the modular classroom preparation that has proved a bit challenging, Heskanes told the committee, was connecting to electricity. This was true also for a new connection for the school itself.

“Unfortunately the infrastructure isn’t in place right now to supply power for the permanent or the temporary,” he said. 

The current idea was to run a new overhead line up Spring Street. “We’re not 100 percent sure that’s doable,” he said. “It may not be. But just coming up Spring Street is more cost-effective than coming up West William, as originally designed.” 

Heskanes said W.T. Rich expects to meet with Eversource on Wednesday to explore the matter. 

Watts said the committee will need to look at the bids in July, and called Mike Owen, senior project manager at CHA Consulting, owner’s project manager for the project, “the forever optimist” the bids would be favorable. 

“He’s very optimistic that they’re going to come in under,” Watts said, “and that we’re going to gain back some of our [deficit] and ask for a smaller amount.”

“The glass is always half full, Mike, always half full,” Owen said.


  1. Has the Town of Tisbury considered putting up a tent in one of our parks for the Special Town meeting? It seems shameful to delay the school project, costing us even more money, because we must use the gym for a Town Meeting.

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