Letter: What a “No” Vote Means for the Galvin Middle School Proposal
What a “No” Vote Means for the Galvin Middle School Proposal
In the past weeks, there have been several articles discussing the proposal to build a new Galvin Middle School for Wakefield. After reading all of these articles – both for and against a new construction – it is clear that there is general consensus among the townspeople that some form of aid is needed for the middle school building.
The majority of the articles recognize that the building is in disrepair and, as it stands, does not meet several safety codes. Articles on both sides, for instance, have discussed the building’s exposed asbestos, poor air quality, outdated and inefficient plumbing and electrical systems, undersized classrooms (70% of the core classrooms are undersized, with some rooms being in the corridor), poor lighting (some teaching spaces have no windows), and accessibility issues. It is for these reasons why no article has advocated doing nothing. To do nothing is simply an unacceptable option – the hazardous and impractical condition of the building has reached the point where action must be taken. The two main actions that have been continuously promoted in the media has been to either renovate the existing building or to demolish the existing building and construct a new middle school.
There have been well-articulated articles supporting the option to renovate, but here lies the problem – the permanent building committee has already rejected the option to renovate the Galvin. Yes, townspeople can continue to discuss it, but it will go nowhere. Why? Simply put, because the permanent building committee concluded that renovation would be almost twice the cost of a new construction. The cost to fully renovate the building is $70.1 million – with absolutely no state aid. This is the fact that gets lost in the discussions.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) only agreed to reimburse Wakefield up to around 53% for a new construction – the MSBA did not agree to reimburse the town for a renovation. This means that if Wakefield wants to renovate the Galvin, then the town will have to pay the full amount of $70.1 million, as opposed to $39 million for a new construction. The tax increase per household for a renovation would significantly increase well beyond what is expected for a new construction: the average annual increase in property tax to renovate would be around $314 for twenty years based on a single-family home valued at $400,000, as opposed to around $175 for a new construction.
Why did the MSBA decide not to renovate? It determined that the costs for building code and energy code upgrades in a renovation would be too substantial and not fully feasible in the outdated and undersized building. Moreover, a study on the cost gap between renovation, partial renovation/new construction, and new construction was determined not significant. The MSBA also concluded that after the town spent $70.1 million in renovation fees, it would still leave the school deficient for current educational programs and urgent physical building needs.
If the town votes “No” for the Galvin Middle School Proposal, then, it means no renovation; it means no new construction; it means the Galvin Middle School Project will be removed from the state’s list of approved projects; it means the town will loose $35.7 million in state funding; and, most importantly, it means the decrepit condition and aforementioned problems of the Galvin Middle School building will continue to worsen.
Please support a new Galvin Middle School by coming to the town meeting on May 14th and attending the Ballot scheduled for June 9th.
If you would like more information or would like to participate in helping to promote a new Galvin Middle School, please contact the Galvinize Wakefield Committee (http://www.galvinizewakefield.com/).
- Joshua E. Polster