Framingham School Committee Passes $9.5 Million Capital Infrastructure Funding Plan

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In full transparency, the following is a press release from the Framingham School Committee & Framingham Public Schools, submitted to SOURCE media.

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FRAMINGHAM – This week the City of Framingham’s School Committee voted to approve the school district’s annual request of priority capital projects for Fiscal Year 2023. These projects and the district’s capital planning process seek to invest in priority needs, as well as save money in the long-term by prioritizing preventative maintenance, public health, environmental, and security projects, and utilizing existing infrastructure, and fully using warranties and cost effective contract vehicles in partnership with municipal departments. 

“There is always work to be done and dollars to be budgeted when you focus on preventative maintenance, especially when scaled to a multimillion dollar operation of more than 15 school buildings,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert A. Tremblay, “but as any homeowner can appreciate, those preventative actions now will surely save money and the impacts of worsening conditions that could lead to building and system failures. We don’t want to be having that conversation.”

“Over the last few months my colleagues and I have raised concerns and alarm about escalating costs and the need for a comprehensive city-wide strategy based on strategic planning, preventative maintenance, equity, and investing now to avoid horrific cost increases expected in recent years,” said Adam Freudberg, Chair of the Framingham School Committee and District 4 Member. “Last year only two of the eight school project requests were approved. This year, we again seek priority projects sorely needed by making a series of strategic investments to support our current students and educators, as well as the generations to come. With this plan, we have teamed up with the Superintendent, as well as the Buildings and Grounds and Safety and Security Departments to propose a plan to spread costs out over multiple years, and focus on preventative maintenance, public health, environmental compliance, and public safety.”

This plan was passed by a unanimous vote of the School Committee on September 22, and was previously passed 3-0 by the School Committee’s Facilities Subcommittee on August 31.  

If approved by the Mayor and then City Council, these capital projects will support the 9,000+ students, 1,800+ employees, and members of the community who utilize schools on evenings and weekends at sites across the City of Framingham. The following projects were carefully selected as part of the Framingham Public Schools (FPS) multi-year capital planning process. Projects proposed for funding and supported by FPS and School Committee are:

1. Exterior Envelope Repairs at Walsh Middle School – $1,161,705

This request for capital budget funding is for the continuation of exterior envelope repairs to the Walsh Middle School. The Department requested $2,156,095 in FY2022 Capital Funding for this project but was approved for $1,100,000 from the Mayor and City Council. This request will allow the Department to undertake the remaining repairs that were not funded during FY2022. This project will address many issues at Walsh Middle School, including failing window perimeter sealant systems; deteriorating expansion joints; deteriorating fascia; deteriorated mortar; foundation cracks and failure; spalling concrete; and associated components. This school was built in 1969 and is in need of these repairs to ensure the building is sealed off from the outdoors and continues to serve the youth of Framingham into the future. 

2. Roof Replacement/Repairs for Dunning and McCarthy Elementary Schools to Support Funding Request to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) – $5,643,437 (Dunning: $1,871,500; McCarthy: $3,771,937)

This request for capital budget funding is for the design and construction of new roofs at Dunning and McCarthy Elementary (Phase I) Schools. These roofs are in poor condition and rapidly deteriorating. Additionally, the warranty for both phases at McCarthy Elementary have expired while the warranty for Dunning Elementary is set to expire in 2023. Both of these roofs are experiencing moisture infiltration and deterioration that is requiring full replacement in order to ensure the continued usage of the school. The Department has submitted a statement of interest to the MSBA for the accelerated repair program for both roofs, and is awaiting follow up from the MSBA on whether the City has been accepted into the program for these roofs. However, as part of the MSBA program, the City is required to allocate full project costs within a given timeline, which this funding request would accomplish. 

3. Paving/Stormwater Improvements at Walsh Middle School and McCarthy Elementary School – $1,060,000 (Walsh: $570,000; McCarthy: $490,000)

This request for capital budget funding is for the continued upgrades of existing parking areas, driveways, and stormwater management systems at District School’s. Additionally, this project also continues the District’s efforts to comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations, which require all City and School buildings’ stormwater run-off, including from roofs, is pretreated prior to allowing stormwater to run into streams, brooks, ponds, etc. 

  • Walsh: Pavement mill and overlay; new ADA compliant sidewalk and pedestrian ramps; parking and driveway restriping; stormwater management system upgrades; project design and administration.
  • McCarthy: Pavement mill and overlay; new HMA (Hot Mixed Asphalt) parking area expansion; new ADA compliant sidewalk and pedestrian ramps; parking and driveway restriping; stormwater management system upgrades; project design and administration.

4. ADA Compliance Projects District-Wide – $300,000

This request for capital budget funding is for the continued improvements focused on eliminating architectural barriers related with accessibility at all Public School Buildings. The Buildings & Grounds Department has undertaken a number of upgrades and improvements District-wide focused on providing accessibility to School facilities for all. The FY2023 proposal includes replacement of the aging chair lift at Walsh Middle School, and installation of a new chair lift at Framingham High School. The lift at Walsh Middle School is one of the oldest lifts within District schools and provides access to two levels within the library. Due to its age and deteriorating condition, it is not a piece of equipment that can be relied upon for much longer. It is the Department’s goal to replace this needed piece of equipment prior to complete failure, which would leave the main level of the library inaccessible to students and staff. Additionally, there is a lack of an accessible lift at Framingham High School. The purchase and installation of a lift at FHS would help eliminate architectural access barriers and provide all students, staff, and parents with additional access points to the second floor. The Disabilities Commission has generously contributed $20,000 to this project, helping to lower the cost carried onto taxpayers. The Department will also undertake additional ADA compliance upgrades District-wide if funding is remaining on this project.

5. Asbestos Abatement at Brophy Elementary School – $660,000

The Brophy Elementary School is one of several older schools that contain asbestos that have been identified as requiring abatement. This proposal focuses on asbestos abatement of deteriorating floor tiles, and pipe insulation. This project will also see the replacement/repair of these items to ensure continued operation as well as the elimination of any potential health risk posed by long-term deferment of this project. This project is part of the district’s proactive approach to follow the Department of Environmental Protection’s requirements for all schools and address areas that show signs of wear. Brophy Elementary School is one of several older schools that contain asbestos in ceilings, floors and pipe coverings above the ceilings that FPS has identified as needing attention.  There is no imminent danger, so this project will remove asbestos before it becomes dangerous.

6. Fire Alarm System Replacement/Repairs – $88,383 (Brophy Elementary: $2674; Potter Road Elementary: $2674; Hemenway Elementary $75,000; Contingency $8,035)

This request for capital budget funding is for the Fire Alarm Systems Replacement/Repairs project. Currently, Hemenway Elementary, Brophy Elementary, and Potter Road School all operate on the same fire alarm system, a faraday addressable system. These systems were installed in 1999 and unfortunately, Faraday no longer produces replacement parts. To ensure these buildings remain protected and to minimize costs, the Department proposes full replacement of the system at Hemenway, removing the Faraday system, and repurposing it for utilization at Brophy and Potter Road. These parts would repair those systems while replacing the system at Hemenway. This approach was proposed and recommended by Custom Alarm,who provides fire alarm protection support to the Department. Additionally, this would extend the life of the systems at Brophy and Potter Road while reducing the overall project costs.

7. Security Enhancements at multiple schools including security cameras and electronic door access systems – $302,000

This request will further support and enhance the already robust security systems and measures at all schools. This includes installation of additional security devices, cameras, and gates; installation of access and alarm systems at the Farley Building; and District-wide communication upgrades. 

8. Farley Generator Installation – $350,350

This request for capital budget funding is for the purchase and installation of an appropriately sized generator at the Farley Building. The current generator is greatly undersized for the District’s needs now that the building is occupied by Central Office staff. This project would allow for the installation of an appropriately sized generator that will provide coverage for the newly relocated offices. Additionally, this generator will be designed to support future operational expansion within the building, allowing for continued operations of the District’s Central Office during power outages. 

Total: $9,565,875

Roofs and Long-Term Infrastructure Needs
During recent meetings, School Committee Members and FPS leaders commented on the wide ranging needs the District’s 15 buildings need over the next decade. Like most districts, FPS does have its share of infrastructure challenges. However, under the leadership of our Building and Grounds Department the district does a terrific job making our schools safe and attractive places to learn and work. The District is continuing to refine the previously published long-term capital plan which reflects the multiple other infrastructure needs required over the coming years. As of today, this plan summarizes the anticipated roof repairs/replacements, paving/environmental stormwater compliance, electrical, plumbing, security, exterior envelope improvements to walls, windows, doorways, and more. This long-term plan reflects an annual actual need of approximately $12 million per year, with urgent roof repairs planned as the top priority. The School Committee has routinely raised the challenge of aging and deteriorating roofs through previous votes, comments, and funding requests, as well as for there to be a comprehensive city strategy to address roofs. The FY23 capital budget request and FY22 mid-year request reflect this as well. These requests are being made at this time to avoid continued increasing costs of these projects, undertake construction during summer months when the buildings are less used, and continue taking on annual roof replacements throughout the district over the coming years. During the meeting, members commented on the cost savings that would come from investing in roof repairs sooner rather than later with 4.8% construction escalation anticipated each year. This chart shows the roof needs, estimates, and anticipated rising costs over time.  

COVID-19 Infrastructure Investments to Improve Public Health and Reduce Risk
These FY23 requests are separate from COVID-19 related projects the District has undertaken in 2020 and 2021. This includes projects funded by federal and state allocations to upgrade or install: window screen installations, air purifiers, water bottle filling stations, COVID-19 isolation rooms, hand sanitizer dispensers, air quality risk assessment study, air filter replacement and upgrades, and COVID-19 related signs and decals across the District. Additionally, the School Committee and FPS recently allocated $5 million of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act over the next three school years to build upon previous upgrades and investments and continue to reduce COVID-19 risk (see the Allocation Press Release here). One time expenses included in this funding allocation include air conditioning solutions at schools where no air conditioning is present.

editor

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