This is a Community Project

Over the past 19 months, the Lincoln School project has been forged by the willingness of residents with a wide range of values, priorities, expertise, opinions, and viewpoints to come together to try to collaboratively solve an incredibly complex problem. The goal of the SBC has been to create a process and a platform for individual ideas to be heard and to give direction to its work. In June, we presented 5 viable ways to move forward, and our community made a group decision, in an unprecedented way, about which project best balanced those priorities and delivered the most value for the investment.

At the end of that Special Town Meeting, an overwhelming majority chose the project known as “L3.” The clarity of the vote was due to the fact that many people, with many ideas, were willing to passionately champion their values while demonstrating their willingness to compromise; finding a balance among multiple needs and interests.

The result is a project that is a reflection of resident values; it is “ours,” as a town, in every sense of the word.

What did it take to get to this point?

When we started this process, many challenged us to go beyond a school that is “safe, warm, and dry” and to focus on transforming the educational environment. They noted that the neighborhood model of classrooms, which supports how our educators teach (with future flexibility), would be easiest to achieve in a new, more compact building – not one with classrooms strung out along a long corridor.

Many residents focused on the opportunity to live up to the green energy goals LIncoln set for itself a decade ago, when the town voted to adopt a fossil fuel reduction standard for its public buildings. They focused our attention on “energy use intensity,” the importance of a well-insulated building, new heating & cooling technologies, and the need to generate electricity on site in order to further reduce our carbon footprint. This would be easiest to achieve with new construction.

Others drew our attention to the deep historical ties the town has to the Ballfield Road site. It was the home of the Lincoln Mohawks baseball team in the first half of the 20th century, and where the town regularly gathered in the grand stands. The Lincoln School itself was designed by two Lincoln-resident modern architects, Lawrence Anderson and Henry Hoover. They helped transform school architecture by providing ample access to natural light, connections to the outdoors, and moveable (dare we say flexible?) furniture that wasn’t bolted to the floor. Many residents saw the important connection of the current building to our town’s history, and wanted to ensure that we re-used as much of it as possible and preserved the integrity of the campus.

The Lincoln School is an important center of the community, and many emphasized its role in our recreational and civic life. They placed a high value on retaining both of our full-sized gyms and the Auditorium.

And everyone wanted to ensure that the project would provide good long-term value for the up-front cost – while being mindful of the immediate impact on the community.

As is quickly apparent, it is not easy to reconcile all of these priorities – but there was a lot of determination! As a result of the creativity of our design team and our committee, and a high level of community participation in the process, we all decided that L3 did the best job of drawing all of those interests together.

On Saturday, we will come together to test that hypothesis.

We know that people will come to the meeting looking at the project through different lenses and their own set of experiences. While we all listen to the presentations and the ensuing debate, the following questions might serve as a framework:

  • What is the impact of our decision on future generations of educators and learners?
  • When we look back in 10 or 20 years, will we have made a wise choice?
  • Have we successfully balanced the values of our community? – Education, environmental stewardship, respect for our history and civic life, and fiscal responsibility?
  • What is the impact of our decision on other Town priorities?

Each of us may answer these questions in different ways. We look forward to a thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation on Saturday.

Remember…

…way back in March of 2017 when we were young, carefree, and just starting this process?

Sometimes, unless you are in the Lincoln School every day, it is easy to forget some of the basic reasons we are deciding, THIS SATURDAY, on a school project.

In March 2017, Town Meeting voted unanimously to release $750K that had been previously set aside for a school study, and to start again on developing a Lincoln School project. That vote indicated agreement that the condition of the school needed to be addressed. What do those basic infrastructure needs look like?

  • Big systems are at or beyond life expectancy. As a result, classrooms are often uncomfortably cold or hot, disrupting learning and impacting teaching:
    • HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) – The school does not have dehumidification or cooling except in selected areas.
    • Electrical
    • Plumbing
    • Building Envelope: roof, windows, insulation
  • There is no fire suppression system.
  • The school does not meet current snow load, structural, or seismic codes.
  • The school and the site do not meet current codes to accommodate people with disabilities.
  • Entryways do not conform to best practices either for security or energy efficiency.

To see some images, click here. Also, click on the image below to see a short video taken a couple of weeks ago in our elementary Wellness (aka Physical Education) teachers’ office.

Does that mean we’re not keeping up with maintenance? 

No. Each year we have voted as a town to fund a maintenance budget for the Lincoln Schools of about $75,000.  The town has a creative and skilled facilities maintenance team that gets the most out of that money by finding parts for obsolete equipment on eBay, making parts, and an endless array of other inventive solutions. About six years ago, for example, they re-sealed the seams on the roof to try to eke out a few more years before a project. It is worth noting that when we were working with the MSBA, which takes a dim view of towns that purposely avoid routine care, they complimented our facilities team on what they were accomplishing through basic maintenance.

Why can’t we just do this in stages?

The cost of replacing major systems means that they must be done as a capital project because they are outside the price range of the operating budget. Each year, the Capital Planning Committee gathers all the capital requests from each town agency, and works collaboratively to prioritize and do long-range planning. When the school department approached CapCom in 2002, the magnitude of the building’s needs led everyone to agree that it would be wise to do a more comprehensive study of the buildings on campus. Since 2003, multiple town committees and six independent consultants have come to the conclusion that a single project is 1) most cost effective; and 2) least disruptive to our children’s education.

  • Because building-wide systems need to be replaced, there is no area of the school that will be untouched. As a one-school town, there is no other place to house students while work is being done, and it is too extensive to complete over summers or vacations.
  • It does not make sense to do the same work twice, i.e. open up the walls to replace the heating system, and then go back and open up the walls to replace the electrical or plumbing systems.
  • Doing extensive work requires us to bring the building up to current safety, accessibility, and structural codes.
  • We want to minimize the time students and teachers are operating in a construction zone.

On June 9th, the Town considered a $49M option that would have addressed the building’s basic needs. In the first round of voting, almost 96% of those at Town Meeting rejected that solution and chose one of the other project concepts that went beyond repair and addressed additional needs.

Over these final few days before Saturday’s vote, we will try to condense and revisit information that has been shared over the past months.  If you have questions, please write a comment or contact the SBC.

Thank you!

-The Outreach Team


Just for Fun:  What is “Budget Falls”?

  • A.  The latest Wall Street exposé by Michael Lewis.
  • B.  A thriller set in an abandoned mill town.
  • C.  What the students named the plastic tarp catching the leaks in the Brooks Hallway.

Click here for the answer!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Outreach Team wishes everyone a turkey-and-pie-filled, enjoyable few days!

We will be on hiatus for just a bit…and then you’ll be hearing from us quite frequently in the final days before the Special Town Meeting which is a week from Saturday!

A few links in case you’re trying to avoid doing the dishes:

Lincoln School Project Overview (this should have arrived in the mail along with the official Town Meeting warrant notice and a glossary of Finance Committee terms.

FAQs: Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)

Finance Committee FAQs

FAQs: Tax Deferral and Abatement Programs

Click here to visit the Town’s page dedicated to the December 1st Special Town Meeting.  Lot’s of information!

 

FAQ – Tax Relief Programs

~~ TONIGHT! Multi-Board Meeting ~~

7:00pm – 9:00pm Hartwell Pod B

The School Building Committee, Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee, and Green Energy Committee will present updated information in preparation for December 1st.  

The public is welcome and encouraged to come ask questions!


FAQ: Are there any ways to mitigate the impact of the property tax increase?

The Town of Lincoln offers all of the tax deferral and abatement programs authorized by the state. Below is a chart of the available programs. For more information about property taxes, please visit the Assessor’s web page on the Town website.

See the Latest!

After getting strong guidance from the community that it preferred a “sloped roof” approach to the new center of the building, our design team incorporated the feedback people gave and created updated drawings of the exterior.  Take a look!

(Funding) Plans…(Building) Plans…(Voting) Plans…

What is the funding plan?

The Lincoln Finance Committee met on Monday, November 5th and voted unanimously to recommend the following plan for funding the $93.9M Lincoln School project:

  • $4.4M from Stabilization Funds (existing funds)
  • $1.0M from Free Cash (existing funds)
  • $88.5 BOND (new borrowed funds)

This is the funding mix the Town will vote on.

The Finance Committee also voted unanimously to release the following statement:

“On June 9th the town decisively supported a school project that embodied educational values and sustainability through a renovated school project. We believe:

    1. The SBC has faithfully executed on this charge designing a project staying within the $93.9mil budget,
    2. The town can finance it and should be able to maintain our AAA bond rating,

and thus FinCom supports this project.”

How will this impact our property taxes?

What are the updates to the building plans?

At the November 1st workshops and through subsequent outreach, the community was asked to weigh in on “flat roofs” vs “sloped roofs” for the center section of the building. Thank you to everyone who offered their opinion!

The feedback from those who weighed in showed a strong preference for sloped roofs (~80% vs 20%). At Wednesday’s meeting, the SBC considered both options, and voted to direct the design team to further refine the sloped roof design. If the project is approved, there will be further work to determine optimal design details.

What are your voting plans?

Saturday, December 1st: Special Town Meeting, 9:00am

  • Both the Auditorium and the Reed/Brooks Gym will be available for voters.
  • Eligible voters must check in outside the Auditorium.
  • You must be present to vote at the Town Meeting.
  • A 2/3 majority is required to authorize the funding and to proceed with the project.

Monday, December 3rd: Ballot Vote, 7:30am – 8:00pm

  • Voting is in the Smith Gym.
  • You may vote an absentee ballot in person at the Town Clerk’s office starting on Friday, November 9th.
  • Requests for absentee ballots must be made before 5:00pm on November 30th.
  • Applications for absentee ballots may be made by a family member, BUT Massachusetts law does not permit any person to obtain or deliver an absentee ballot for another individual.
  • Absentee ballots being returned by mail from the United States must be received by the Town Clerk by the close of the polls (8pm) on December 3rd.
  • To request a ballot or to get more information visit https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleabsentee/absidx.htm

Outreach  Events

  • TOMORROW (Friday) – 8:30am in the Lincoln Woods community room
  • TOMORROW (Friday) – 1:00pm in Bemis Hall
  • SATURDAY, 11/10 – 1:00pm, Lincoln Library
  • TUESDAY, 11/13 – 8:00am, Hartwell Multipurpose Room
  • WEDNESDAY, 11/14 – 9:00am, deCordova Café
  • THURSDAY, 11/15 – 11:00am, The Commons
  • THURSDAY, 11/15 – 7:00am, Multiboard Meeting, Pod B

Who picked this budget?…and other cost questions…

Cost FAQs: There are a number of interrelated questions that come up about the cost of the project and how we expect to stay on budget. Some variations include: Why is the budget $93.9M? Why didn’t we choose a budget and then do as much as we could for it? Home renovation projects always cost more than expected – will that happen to the school project?

Budget: Since we started talking about a school project a decade ago, there have been questions about why we started with a range of budget choices instead of one budget amount.

  • In 2009, we did this because we were working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and that is how their process works. The MSBA asks districts to identify all their needs/project goals and to then develop a range of solutions that meet different ranges of those needs. They expect to see the lowest-cost, most basic project at one end of the spectrum, and a “start from scratch and build it new” project at the other. Towns then choose a solution based on their own set of cost/value criteria.
  • The current SBC is using the same process. Why? First, it would have been hard to choose a single budget without understanding whether or not it would meet our infrastructure and educational needs. Second, each of us probably had a different number in our heads when we thought about what the “right” budget number was. That is why we had a Special Town Meeting on June 9th– the SBC provided a set of projects that each met a different range of needs at different budget levels, and asked the Town to collectively choose a budget (with a defined set of project objectives) to bring to a bonding vote in December.  Together we chose the $93.9M budget that would achieve our stated educational, sustainability, and basic infrastructure goals.
  • Using this method not only sets the budget but sets the expectations for what we get for that budget. This leads to the FAQ about cost containment.

Cost Containment: What keeps this budget from going over $93.9M? There are several factors:

  • The only way money gets spent is if the Town votes to make it happen. There is no way to get extra money for the project unless it is approved at a Town Meeting.
  • The Town expects the SBC to stay on budget, and the SBC takes that charge very seriously. There will be 2-3 additional rounds of cost estimates and, if needed, value-engineering.
  • We are still in the Schematic Design phase, and there are a number of contingencies built into the budget. The estimate includes contingencies to address the potential escalation of costs over time, and to address the fact that there is still significant “Design Development” work to do (after December 3rd).
  • Construction Manager at Risk (CMR): This is a common construction method in which a construction manager is brought on to the project as soon as funding is approved.  The SBC just voted to recommend a CMR firm to the School Committee. There are a number of advantages to this process versus the traditional “design, bid, build” construction method:
    • The quality of construction firms bidding on projects under the CMR scenario is higher.
    • We get to meet the actual team of people who will be working on the project.
    • The CMR takes some responsibility for the budget process as soon as they are involved.
    • They work with us through design development to optimize the construction process, phasing, needed studies, etc.
    • The overall process of implementing site logistics and safety is better with a partner who is in on the design process.
    • This is a complex renovation project, and it will help contain cost to have a construction manager overseeing and managing the details to make sure the project is meeting our expectations.
  • The budget-setting process described above. When we voted for the $93.9M budget, it came with a defined set of objectives and components – in a broad sense, we knew what we would get for that budget. The SBC’s job, with the support of relevant Town committees, is to make sure that as the details are developed, we make responsible decisions to ensure we stay on track.

SOTT Recap

Now that we are in the home stretch, you will be hearing from the Outreach Team a bit more frequently – we thank you for understanding!

State of the Town Update
At Saturday’s State of the Town, the SBC gave an update on the Lincoln School project’s progress since June. Here are the highlights (see the slides, including information from the Finance Committee, here):

  • The SBC has focused on 6 major components of the project:
    • Classroom neighborhoods centered on “hub” spaces for grades 3 – 8.
    • The central “heart” of the school: flexible learning commons, media center (library), central dining commons, kitchen, and a central entrance.
    • Sustainability and systems: energy generation (photovoltaic panels), heating/cooling, insulation, safety & security, electrical, and plumbing systems.
    • Exterior architecture.
    • Site plans: roads, walking and bike paths, and recreational spaces.
    • Phasing: where do students go during renovation?
  • Cost: For the past 3 weeks, the SBC has concentrated on a “value-engineering” process to keep the project on budget. What does that mean? Where are we now?
    • June 9th: The budget we chose as a Town was $93.9M.
    • September 26th: The SBC got estimates from 2 independent cost estimators. The draft estimates were $102M and $109M.
    • September 28th: The two estimators reconciled their estimates to $104M.
    • October 3rd: SBC’s task? Reduce the project by $10M!
      • SMMA presented about 100 items to consider cutting or reducing.
    • October 3rd – October 17th: The SBC closed the gap and brought the project back to budget! How? Most of the gap was closed by scaling back site work, negotiating for a better price on temporary classrooms, and choosing to pursue a Power Purchase Agreement to install photovoltaic panels instead of incurring this as a capital cost. NOTE: Value-engineering is not just about cutting cost, but about making trade-offs that maintain the long-term value of the project. For example, the SBC chose to add in a better heating/cooling system and accepted a small budget increase to enable us to move forward with the tweak to the design that provided a better floor plan for the central part of the school.

Next SBC Meeting: Wednesday, October 24th, 7pm, Hartwell

 

Value Engineering – Part 1

Cost Estimate Overview
On September 26th, the SBC received the draft preliminary cost estimates from two independent estimators: The two total project cost estimates came in at $102M and $109M, well above our target budget of $93.9M. After that meeting, the estimators, our design team, and our Owner’s Project Manager met to reconcile the two draft estimates to ensure they were comparing the same scope, materials, and quantities. This past Wednesday, the SBC presentation outlined the reconciled, detailed cost estimates: one went up and one came down, and each estimate is currently about $104M. This is better, but we still have our work “cut out” to remove, scale back and/or trade off items to fit within our budget.

The chart below shows the total project budget broken down into 7 broad categories. As you can see, the building renovation/additions costs came in as expected. There were two big categories that account for most of the delta between the current cost estimates and the conceptual cost estimates we saw in June: Site work and temporary classrooms.

“Curb Appeal”
In that same meeting, our project team presented a list of possible items (link here) that could be eliminated or scaled back. While the SBC made some progress removing items, the real work (and dollars) requires understanding tradeoffs that can’t be resolved in just one night, and understanding how eliminating up-front cost impacts long-term value. Here are some examples:

  • Defer vs. Replace: If we defer replacing the Reed Gym roof (which is about 9 years old), will that existing roof support the planned solar equipment? And is the existing roof currently insulated well enough to meet our overall energy goals
  • Temporary Modular Classroom Units – Unlike all of our neighboring towns, we don’t have several different school & municipal buildings to accommodate temporary arrangements. We need approximately 30 classrooms for students during the two construction phases, and those units must meet all current code and safety requirements (ADA access, sprinkler systems, etc.)
  • Site Work: Some site costs are driven by the constraints of our situation, such as the need to restore playing fields after housing modular classrooms for three years. Other items are savings vs. value decisions that we need to figure out. Do we want less expensive “cape cod berms”, asphalt-formed curbs that wear out over time? Or, do we prefer more expensive granite curbs that last virtually forever after many, many snow plow scrapes?

 

 

 

 

All Hands on Deck!
Residents should know that it is not just the SBC that is engaged in the Lincoln School project. The Schools and the Town are in continuous communication, and the Town administration is supporting the project in a number of ways. At the October 3rd meeting, Tim Higgins, Town Administrator, assured the SBC that the Schools and the Town are each doing their part, and gave an overview of how the Town has been planning for this project:

  • Alternative Funding Possibilities: The Town is researching a number sources of funding that could help with pieces of the project such as Community Preservation Act funds for outdoor recreational facilities, Chapter 90 state roadway funds, “Complete Streets” state grants, and the Cable TV Revolving Fund.
  • Sustainability: The Town is assisting with analysis of our photovoltaic panel options, and engaged a solar consultant who is doing an analysis of our purchasing and leasing options. It has also enlisted our state legislators to assist with research. Finally, there is a town by-law that was put in place that limits 3rd party power purchasing agreements (PPAs). The Planning Board is working on drafting an amendment that would allow municipal PPAs.
  • Financial Planning: The Town’s Finance Committee and Financial Director have been working to ensure we are ready to go to the bond market. Over the past decade, the Town worked to achieve and maintain a AAA rating.