HAMPSTEAD – At a public hearing on the more than $6 million renovation and construction bond for the Hampstead School District, former Hampstead resident Christopher Huston, vice president of architecture for Bread Loaf Architects, Planners and Builders of Middlebury, VT., presented the Phase I project facing voters this March. The proposed 10-year bond is for $6,180,520. But with interest added in over the 10-year life of the bond, the total cost of the proposed project is $7,470,941.02.
Huston was raised in Hampstead, and designing the renovation and construction project that faces school district voters in March has been a particularly satisfying effort for him.
The Hampstead School Board has been working with Bread Loaf for several years on developing improvements for its schools with a view to implementing 21st Century educational facilities. The initial agreement with Bread Loaf was signed in December 2009, and Bread Loaf created from a comprehensive facilities assessment a portfolio of what Hampstead schools should look like to meet that goal.
After the initial design portfolio was reviewed for each school, it was considered too big to be embraced as a whole. Phase 1 was then carved out to include those renovations and construction projects considered by the School Board and the Facilities Committee to be of an immediate need.
Huston used a PowerPoint presentation at the Tuesday, Jan. 14 hearing to show the construction of the addition to Hampstead Central School, consisting of two floors, each with three classrooms; the proposed improvement and expansion of the kindergarten wing rooms, bringing them into compliance with state size requirements; a hallway, stairs and elevator that would connect the new construction to the existing building; and a new “skin” on the exterior of the kindergarten wing to address energy loss concerns because of cinder block construction and the infiltration of vehicle exhaust.
Included as well is the removal of the three outside portable trailers, used now for two fourth grade classes, therapy services, a maintenance room, and two music rooms.
At the middle school, Huston explained, a new entrance was meant to clarify the main entrance to the school as well as provide security and address energy loss. He also discussed the plans to rework the library by adding windows along the hallway, opening the room up at the hallway intersection, and adding skylights, along with asbestos removal.
The overall cost of the Central School project is $5,393,598; the cost of the middle school project is $786,922.
The project cost will be more than $6,180,520 by the time bond interest payments over the 10-year life of the bond, amounting to $1,290,421, are added in. When the interest is added in, the total cost of the proposed project is $7,470,941.02.
Huston was asked why the project wasn’t broken down further to make it more financially palatable and whether some or most of the components were “wants” rather than “needs.”
He defended the project as presented, noting that removing some pieces would in the end cost taxpayers more.
Huston was also questioned about the costs of Phase II and potentially Phase III, and had no answer. Budget Committee member Steve Londrigan asked if demolition and rebuilding of the schools would be a less expensive way to go, but Huston said that had never been contemplated.
Budget Committee member Ann Howe questioned many of the plan components, saying they didn’t strike her as being “immediate needs.”
The committee asked how much money has already been spent on the project but received only a partial response. The current plans prepared by Bread Loaf are shovel ready and are owned by the school district for this year, according to the School Board. Board Chairwoman Natalie Gallo had asked the School Administrative Unit (SAU) office for an accounting of how much has been paid to Bread Loaf to date and said the figure provided was $292,230, of which $209,375 has been paid.
In addition, two other space needs studies have been done for Hampstead Central School.
Gallo said she believes in the project wholeheartedly and supports it unreservedly.
“What we have is what the School Board told Bread Loaf we want,” she said. “This is the appropriate way to go at this time.”
Huston added that the time is right to do the project because bond interest is low, as are construction and materials.
Following the hearing, the School Board met in public session and recommended the bond warrant article.