An independent third look at the numbers basically confirms what school architects Saccoccio Associates have said all along that new Toll Gate and Pilgrim High Schools can be built for the $350 …
An independent third look at the numbers basically confirms what school architects Saccoccio Associates have said all along that new Toll Gate and Pilgrim High Schools can be built for the $350 million bond issue voters approved last November.
“If they can do it for 350, I want to do it. My concern is that it runs over that,” Mayor Frank Picozzi said Tuesday. The analysis of cost projections made by Saccoccio and confirmed in a peer review done last winter, commissioned by the City Council puts the cost of the two schools within 5 percent of the earlier projections. The Council contracted Ellana Construction Consultants to do the $85,000 analysis that was delivered on Friday.
City Council President Steve McAllister , who said Tuesday he plans to dive into the report, said in a text that he has asked the administration through the planning g department to review the 34-page document comprised largely of numbers and “put together a memo for the council.”
At this point the council holds the key to killing the new schools or releasing the funds to move forward with more detailed drawings of the schools to be followed with the solicitation of bids and award of a contract. The new schools would be built simultaneously on athletic fields at both the Pilgrim and Toll Gate campuses. When the new schools are completed, the existing schools would be demolished with the sites being converted into athletic fields. The state will reimburse 55% of the construction costs, giving Warwick what the school administration reasons are two schools for the price of one.
Without a deep dive into the numbers School Committee Chair David Testa said the Ellana report reaffirms what the administration has been saying all along. Testa pushed for release of the bond funds shortly after the New Year reasoning that if the city dallied construction would not be able to start in time to for the schools to open in five years that would risk loss of reimbursements. Nonetheless, with reports of other districts running over construction budgets and escalating costs resulting from inflation and supply shortages, the council balked.
Those opposed to the school bond on the basis that paying off the debt would drive taxpayers out of their homes and two schools are not needed are expected to voice their concerns when the council considers whether to release the bond funds. McAllister hasn’t set a date for that vote.
Picozzi said if he had been mayor when the decision was made to build a new Toll Gate and Pilgrim, he would have advocated building a new Pilgrim now and a new Toll Gate in ten years, “but I wasn’t there.”
Asked if the schools can be built within the Ellana projections, $150.6 million for Toll Gate and $150.8 million for Pilgrim, which doesn’t include soft costs, Mark Saccoccio said that he has always said it can be done for the budget. “It’s doable.” He added that they would be checking the budget every stage of the design and making adjustments to ensure costs stay within the budget.
Those wary of moving ahead with the schools are expected to argue that value engineering and the elimination of features in the visionary renderings of the schools make the schools significantly different from what voters were told they would get.
Steve Gothberg, school Director of Capital and Construction Projects , who has diligently worked to provide reliable information on the projects was not surprised by Ellana’s cost projections. Cost increases of 5 percent over the Saccoccio numbers he reasons is in keeping with overall inflation.
Legislation spearheaded by House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi of Warwick has provided some breathing room for the Warwick schools with the extension of completion of the schools and a 2.5 percent increase in reimbursement.
The decision now rests with the council and whether to release the funds.