The Town Council approved $1.378 million to hire an architect to do the schematic designs for rebuilding, renovating and/or adding on to Watertown’s three elementary schools.
A committee of school and town officials put out a request for proposals and received two bids. The firm they chose was Ai3 of Wayland, the same group that was hired over the summer to advise the Town and Schools about how to proceed with modernizing the town’s schools.
The Town Council voted unanimously to fund the architect’s contract on Tuesday night.
School Committee Chairman John Portz thanked the Town Council for approving the funding.
“It is an incredibly exciting project,” Portz said. “It is a longterm project – it will take a few years – and it will create some very different looking and very nice schools.”
Superintendent Dede Galdston said she is excited about the future of the schools in Watertown.
Scott Dunlap, principal of architecture firm Ai3, said he has seen a lot of enthusiasm for the schools in Watertown.
“We’re very excited – more excited than you, if you can imagine,” Dunlap said.
Over a year ago Dunlap attend a meeting in Watertown where parent and community members discussed the renovation of of the schools. Dunlap said he was amazed with how many people were there and the questions they had.
“The room was packed!” Dunlap said. “The types of questions people had lead me to believe this town would make this a reality – and soon it was.”
On Monday, Ai3 will be back at Town Hall to present to the School Committee and overview of the process of the schematic design. The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber.
Galdston said the first “visioning session” will soon be held where people will talk about what they want to see in the new schools. Dunlap said he would give more details about what happens in the visioning sessions on Monday.
There will also be opportunities for the public to give input about the schools, said Mary DeLai, the Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations.
Ai3 will not necessarily be doing the detailed construction designs needed to put the projects out to bid, DeLai said.
“The contract was written so we will have the opportunity to extend the contract, should we choose, based on the outstanding work we expect from (Ai3),” DeLai said. “But, should they not meet expectations we would have he opportunity to look at that again.”
The same goes for the owner’s project management firm, Daedalus, which was hired in October to be the Town’s representative overseeing the elementary school projects.
The schematic designs should be completed by the summer of 2018, DeLai said.
Earlier this year, Town Manager Michael Driscoll said that the town will be able to pay for the construction of the three elementary schools using the regular operating budget, so no Prop. 2-1/2 debt exclusion would need to be added to property owners’ tax bills. The money for the architectural services will be borrowed, but will still be within the town budget.
The money would be paid back over a five year period from Fiscal Year 2019 to Fiscal Year 2023, said Driscoll. The estimated interest, at 4.5 percent, would be $186,111, putting the total payments at $1,564,170.
Galdston thanked everyone who had helped get to the point where designs can begin to be made for the three elementary schools. The work began before she arrived in Watertown in July. The planning began under Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald and continued under interim Superintendent John Brackett. A master plan was created by a committee of parents, educators and officials working with consultants SMMA. Their report came out in December 2016.