Elections For Added Nauset High Funding Set For January

By: Ryan Bray

Voters will return to the polls Jan. 10 to approve additional funds for the Nauset High School building project. FILE PHOTO

District Towns Asked To Support Additional $38 Million In Project Costs

A district-wide election will be held in January in each of the four Nauset towns asking voters to commit an additional $38 million toward the district’s high school renovation project.

The Nauset Regional School Committee unanimously voted Nov. 3 to hold elections in Orleans, Brewster and Eastham on Jan. 10. The process will mirror the one followed to get approval for the original $131.8 million for the project in March 2021.
Higher than anticipated costs due to inflation caused the low general contractor bid on the project to run almost $30 million over budget.

While school committee members expressed displeasure with coming back to voters for more money, it was recognized as the best way to see the effort through to completion.
“We’re on a difficult path, but it’s the best choice and the best decision that could have been made,” Chris Easley, the regional committee’s chair, said at the conclusion of the Nov. 3 vote.

Sixty percent of the project involves a renovation of the existing North Eastham campus, which opened in 1972. The remaining 40 percent calls for new construction. The district has purchased 37 modular classrooms to accommodate teachers and students when work on the project begins.
The first phase of work, which involves taking the existing E and N buildings, the gymnasium and the cafeteria offline, was due to begin in January. Greg Lavasseur, who chairs the district’s building committee overseeing the project, said of the $131.8 million originally approved for the renovation, $104.5 million was set aside for construction. There is also an additional $5 million set aside as contingency funding for unanticipated expenses.

But the two general contractor bids the district received for the project last month both came in well over budget. The low bidder, Brait Builders Corp. of Marshfield, put forth a bid of $134.8 million.

The rising cost of goods and materials sent subcontractor bids on the project approximately $20 million over budget. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning bids came in particularly high, between $7 million and $9 million more than anticipated.

The building committee, which voted Nov. 2 to recommend that the regional school committee support asking voters for the additional $38.1 million, also weighed the option of revisioning the project and scaling it down to come in on budget. But Lavasseur told the regional school committee Nov. 3 that the scope of the project would have to be reduced by roughly 60,000 square feet in order to bring the project in line with existing funding.

There is not enough wiggle room to take $29 million out of the project,” he said.

The project is currently running approximately $29.7 million over budget, according to figures presented to the regional school committee by Lavasseur at last week’s meeting. The $38.1 million figure also includes additional contingency funds ($5.98 million), more money to cover “soft costs and administration ($1 million), moving and inspection services, rising information technology costs and additional risk insurance. The new figure also takes into account projected project costs three years out.

We don’t want to ask for too much, and at the same time we don’t want to ask for too little,” Easley said.

Brait Builders has agreed to hold to its bid for 90 days, putting the district on the clock to secure the funding it needs to move the project forward. Easley said starting the bid process from scratch would delay the project timeline by four to six months, and could potentially add as much as $15 million to the project.

Tom Fitzgibbons, who serves on both the regional school committee and the building committee, expressed confidence in Brait Builders, noting the company’s work to bring the new Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in on time and under budget.
“That’s encouraging news that they’re our contractor,” he said.

The regional school committee was faced with two options for going back to district voters for the additional funding. Apart from the district-wide vote, there was also the option for each district town to hold its own town meetings and special elections to secure the money.
But school and town officials voiced support for holding the same district-wide vote that took place in March 2021. Eastham Town Administrator Jacqueline Beebe said town administrators in the four district towns were unanimous in their support for the district-wide approach, adding that town clerks in each town “have mobilized extremely quickly” to make the elections possible in each town.
Fitzgibbons also spoke in support of the district-wide vote, noting that the March 2021 vote attracted about 9,000 voters across the four towns.

District voters will be able to vote in-person on Jan. 10 and early by mail, Beebe said. There will not be an option for early in-person voting.
There also was discussion Nov. 3 about the potential for additional funding by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which has already committed $36.6 million toward the project. Josh Stewart of the regional school committee advocated for any additional money that is awarded the project to come back to the district towns to help offset the added cost.

But Nauset School Superintendent Brooke Clenchy said any talk about additional state funding from the MSBA is premature.
“I don’t want to write a check that we can’t cash when we don’t know where we sit right now,” she said.

For Judith Schumacher of the regional school committee, the decision to go back to voters for approval of the additional funds was an easy one.
“We asked them the first time, and we need to ask them the second time and lay out the facts before us,” she said.

Prior to the regional school committee vote, Orleans Select Board member Kevin Galligan stressed the need to properly educate voters about what’s at stake in the January elections.
“Because this project desperately needs to advance, it really does,” he said. “The bidding climate is not going to get better.”


Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com


What’s In The $38.1 Million?

Additional Construction Costs: $29.7 million

Additional Construction Contingency Funding: $5.98 million

Soft Costs and Administration: $1 million

Information Technology (escalated costs): $814,500

Construction Testing and Inspection Services: $125,000 

Moving Services and Storage Containers: $100,000

Builder’s Risk Insurance: $400,000