Higher costs expected for HVAC project 

The intermunicipal agreement may be reopened for Chilmark School.

The demolition plans that are a part of the Chilmark School HVAC project.

The up-Island school committee unanimously voted during a Tuesday evening meeting to approach the towns about possibly reopening the intermunicipal agreement to increase the borrowing amount. This would be for Chilmark School’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, and discussion on whether more money would be needed also came up during a November meeting, although no vote was taken at the time. 

John Keenan and Antonia Kenny, Keenan + Kenny Architects principals, and Michael Owen and Aditya Modi, owner’s project managers from CHA, presented their materials to the committee. Keenan + Kenny was brought onto the project in July because each time CHA and TE2 Engineering issued a construction request for proposals (RFP) the bids came back over budget. The architectural firm was brought in to find ways to lower bid costs. 

The committee ratified the agreement in October 2021, in which Chilmark agreed to borrow the $950,000 needed to fill in the school’s funding gap, which the school district would pay back with interest to the town over a 10-year period. The town had also pledged $126,000 from its Massachusetts Green Communities Designation and Grant Program funds. The project is currently budgeted at around $1.2 million. 

Kenny said the scope of the work was not as comprehensive in the previous bids, and was missing details, such as some demolition of access to the attic or work on the ducts. 

“Hopefully, now that we have that nailed down, that’s going to be more clear and be able for them to give a more competitive price,” Kenny said. 

Keenan said a land surveyor from Farland Corp. was hired to “give us a proper site plan so we can locate the new generator and its fuel tanks and the underground conduits, et cetera.” 

“It should be a nice, neat, clean, quick installation,” Keenan said. 

After Keenan gave a rundown of the plans, Modi provided the expected timeline for the project. The bid documents will be available on Feb. 6. The finalized details for the contractor and funding will be finished by the end of May. Construction would start in June and end in the summer of 2024.

Owens said those involved did their “due diligence” to find cost-saving methods, such as finding that existing motors can integrate with TE2’s system and avoiding purchases of seven new ones at $20,000 apiece. However, Owen believes there will be a financial impact from the findings. 

“We’ve come to the determination on how we’ll bid this,” Owen said, listing three options. The first basic bid would get “a functioning, insulated roof system.” The second option would either award now or reconsider later “the finishes within the classrooms to cover the duct work that’s exposed as it runs around those classrooms.” The third option would “separate the costs of the generator, which we believe does not have enough budget, and isolate those costs to make a determination when we receive the bids in the first week of March.” For the third option, a decision would need to be made on whether to package it, to take the issue to town meeting, or to delay it. 

Owen continued by saying the market is still experiencing supply chain issues, although not to the same degree as six months ago, that would increase how long the project would take. The switchgears are expected to take around 62 weeks to arrive after the project is approved. Owens said this is a part of why an end date estimation was already given. 

“Going back to the funding, I totally believe we don’t have enough allocation,” Owens said, adding that once the bids are received in March, “that will allow us to make a knowledge-based decision based on accurate information and pricing.” After having the information, the towns can be approached for more funding with definitive answers on what the “participation levels would be.” Owens said this was the approach taken for when Tisbury School was worked on. 

Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools business administrator Mark Friedman said there are a few options that the committee could consider, “but they all take time.” According to Friedman, if the new costs are within a few hundred thousand dollars of the current budget, the usage of excess and deficiencies (E and D) funding is a possibility. Another option is for the committee to vote to borrow the additional money. The third option was going to the towns, primarily Chilmark, to amend the intermunicipal agreement. 

Committee chair Alex Salop asked whether amending the agreement would need to go to the voters, because he “can’t fathom a situation” where this can be done in time, with three special town meetings. Friedman said state laws do not require intermunicipal agreements to go to voters, and can be decided by the governing body, although they can choose to bring the issue to voters. “It would be an individual town decision,” Friedman said. 

Owen said “there is a path forward,” although he did not “go into the weeds” of it yet without further details. 

Chilmark town administrator Tim Carroll said he would still need to go to town meeting for authorization, since Chilmark is the borrowing agent, and they would also need a “green-light letter from the bond counsel.”

“I don’t know if the towns will vote for it … without a target number,” Carroll said. 

After further discussion, the committee unanimously approved the bidding schedule as presented, and then unanimously approved approaching the towns for reopening the intermunicipal agreement.