Letter To The Editor: Until There Is Accountability, A ‘No’ Vote On New High School

Photo: A No until accountability

To The Editor:

I am not going to argue whether we need a new school. I am concerned about the people on the committee and our past debacles.

Wellington Elementary School
1. full before it was finished being built.
2. Neighbor Noise issues (as a side the building committee rolled there eyes even thought the residents were correct and the town eventually after finally listening did something about it).
3. Sound proofing – the school was finally fixed this year for the noise between classrooms and it actually caused a new sound issue in the principals office that has to be corrected.
4. It’s made of wood and is already in need of repair.

Trash Dumpsters
For some reason the committees never take this into account. There was an issue at the Burbank. At the Chenery the solution was to line up barrels in the hallways until the fire chief said it was a safety issue

This is the third high school in 75 years I believe. And the in-all-seriousness Bill Lovallo, the chair of the building committee made a comment that this school should last 50 years. Now I am sure it was said with the best of intentions but with proper maintenance and upkeep, shouldn’t a building last more than 50 years?

Speaking of upkeep, what is the maintenance plan for this building? Are estimated costs for the future? For example, what is the boilers life span? Will there be money in replace [them] when the time comes and not let them be fixed with band aids?

Did you know the building committee decided to take down the [White] Field House in front of the hockey rink? The one where just a few years ago people donated to have new lockers put in with name plates? Not to mention the decision was made without consulting the Recreation Department who uses an office there (and to my knowledge had not been told of their new location) or that that building is also use for IT equipment for wiring around the field and rink (sorry I don’t know the technical terms).

Now I completely appreciate the time and effort that the people on these committees make but its the same people committee after committee. Who picks them? The Town Moderator. I am curious if anyone has been turned down from a committee or if truly no one else has asked to be on it. What we need is an actual plumber, HVAC and general contractor on the committee as they know the codes and can pick things up when reviewing plans. To me not having those on the board is irresponsible.

Finally, one of major concerns is the fiscal responsibility of the committee. Once the money is received from the Massachusetts School Building Authority and from the town, the committee has oversight. The committee does have have to answer to anyone else, not the town administrator or the town selectmen. How long has the Wellington been done and the board is still in existence and still spending money (granted it is to correct problems but really, should it have taken this long).

Until I can get assurances that we are not going down the same road we always do, whether we need it or not, I will vote no.

Lisa Boyajian

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  1. Dave Brooks says

    I haven’t spent a lot of time looking into the yes or no pros and cons, but for those who say it’ll cost too much for the new building, just review the details about how much it’ll cost the town to maintain existing buildings, buy modulars, etc. It’ll cost more to vote No than Yes. So it seems like a very reasonable conclusion to vote yes. Also i have kids who’ll benefit greatly from investing our tax money the smartest way possible…by following the committee recommendations and not by throwing a bunch of FUD out there.

  2. J. Maher says

    Lisa is right. We need to vote no and get our finances in order. There is an increase in student population but I believe the numbers to be eschewed. This town had a large student enrollment in the 70’s and 80’s also. I also find it the town is seeing this large increase, when in fact it was reported in the Boston Globe that the birth rate is on the decline. There is other alternatives to renovate the high school. I believe this plan is way to extravagant and should be scaled back. It appears the designers are trying to win an award for this design. By going for this new project a lot of money will be thrown away. The baseball fields were done over, along with the batting cages, football field and track. Now were just going to rip it all up. I also agree that tradesman should be brought in to look at what really needs to be done to the high school to renovate it in stages. The town has a lot of other needs than one school. The students just were recognized for high marks with MCAS all being done under the current school.

  3. Mark S. says

    Really good points. I hope they get it right. I am however voting yes. It is what is best for the town and the time is now.

  4. Lisa Pargoli says

    Thank you Lisa for speaking up I know that it is very difficult to go against the crowd but you are not alone sadly to say the people I’ve spoken to feel it’s useless that those with an agenda will make you feel guilty ( silently bulling). I hope that there is some plan to pay for all this without putting the total burden on all tax payers. I believe every tax payer needs to know before the vote how much they’re taxes will permanently be increased just for this one project and a preview of what is to come for any other possible increases. Belmont is a town not a city which seems to be what we are now being compared to for this project and other things. We have no revenue to pay for these projects and if we continue to knock down single family homes and building multi family homes on these postage size lots this is the beginning of an never ending problem. We need a new High School we needed it when my children went there but they survived 2 have masters degrees and one just graduated with honors from college proof that it’s not all the building or all the bells and whistles just because it’s Belmont. I long for the days when we were truly a town of homes, open spaces and a community of unity where the welfare of our families, our neighbors and the preservation of our town was our first priority.

  5. Larry Link says

    Lisa, I appreciate your points, and yet, there is an incredible amount of effort and deep knowledge which goes into all of these projects, let alone a major one like the new HS/MS. I have attended many of the public meetings, reviewed the incredible array of details on-line, and come away very impressed with what the Building and School Committees — and its two major outside vendors and partners — have accomplished. Myriad details, major concepts, politics, many student/parent/neighbor/tax payer concerns, and yes, compromises. That this may not be “perfect” to all points of view should be understood, but what they have achieved is quite remarkable.

    Two points in evidence: The Commonwealth Building Commission has rewarded the BC’s diligent effort with one of its HIGHEST “grant credit” (reimbursement rates as a percentage of total project costs), ever! Second, the BC has also made yeoman strides in relieving the strain down the food chain, toward solving an overwhelming rise in the school population. This is a Town-wide solution to a major problem.

    Surely the last decade’s student growth rate was a surprise to all — including the outside forecasting experts. Perhaps you are suggesting Town lay-people, who volunteer their free time on School Committee, with serious attitude and extensive investment in gaining knowledge on many school issues, are not doing enough? I would argue they do much more than the average citizen, and we should be expressing our immense gratitude. As a recent arrival in Belmont, I am very impressed and appreciative of the depth of volunteer commitment to so many Town functions. They are playing with the hand they were dealt — on behalf of us all.

    Why don’t we pull together as a community to get this major issue solved? It is a significant cost, to be sure, but the speed with which this works to address overcrowding and leverages the Commonwealth grant are vital. Our Town is way behind in addressing several capital projects, stemming from a 20 year planning and execution backlog. You may wish to dig in your heels on the HS/MS, however, I will not. I wish to avoid forcing a 25% increase in costs (the “B” plan of more modulars, etc), and at least doubling the timeline for mediocre change. This seems unfair, nay, UNJUST, to our young people (not to mention the value of our homes as would be reflected by an inferior learning environment and school facilities).

    Respectfully, Larry Link
    49 Orchard St

  6. Lisa Pargoli says

    Amen Lisa thought I was a lone wolf on this one. I would also like to add has anyone even considered the many who’s lives will be devastated by the enormous financial burden. I have spoken to many who believe they will have to leave there homes here after decades as well as generations. I find this terribly disheartening.

    Lisa Pargoli

  7. says

    To address the common mistake that many people make in regards to the need to rebuild, saying that “a building should last more than fifty years,” I’d like to point out the following:

    1. When the current BHS was built, sprinklers weren’t required.
    2. When the current BHS was built, ADA compliance wasn’t required.
    3. When the current BHS was built, it was common practice to use asbestos and lead in construction.
    4. When the current BHS was built, most classes were given in a lecture format. We have thankfully moved to models that better engage students in learning.
    5. When the current BHS was built, security needs were different. The building is not designed with student safety during an active shooter situation in mind.
    6. When the current BHS was built, communication needs were limited to basic telephone lines.
    7. The current heating, plumbing, and electrical systems all need replacement, not because they haven’t been maintained well (they have, and we’re getting more money from the MSBA because of exceptional maintenance) but because they have reached the end of their design life, are outdated, and you can’t even find parts for many of the components any more. The newer systems will cost the town significantly less money for years to come, and will help the town to meet its green energy goals to boot.

    I take issue with the way the writer has denigrated the BHSBC, which as a committee has worked tirelessly to make this project a reality, and will continue to work after the students have entered the school because that’s how school building projects work. The committee is made up of smart, dedicated people from different fields who brought their talents and considerable time to the project. I for one deeply respect their contributions to the future of the town, and I hope that the election on November 6th is an enthusiastic YES from Belmont voters.

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