On July 15, 2020

Storm water solvable at new Woodstock school site, consultants find

By Curt Peterson

The Windsor Central Unified Union School District (WCUUSD) building and grounds committee will tell the full school board at its next meeting on Aug. 3 that concerns about drainage, wetlands, and storm water management can be resolved for preliminary approval of state standards, and will let the full board know that the additional $137,000 of remaining donated funds could be spent to determine a realistic cost estimate for construction of the proposed new Middle/High School near the existing structure.

Building and grounds met jointly with the finance committee via Zoom on Thursday, July 9 to hear a presentation by Andres Torizzo, co-principal of Watershed Consultants in Burlington.

The consulting firm was engaged to study the hydro-related issues when board member Jim Haff (Killington), buildings and grounds committee chair, and Killington Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth, pointed out that these issues and the Ottauquechee River corridor, which runs through the site, needed to be dealt with before the board considers moving forward with further design and financing of the new school.

Architect Leigh Sherwood of Lavallee Bresinger Architects said Wednesday night it turned out to be a “great suggestion.”

Up to this point the board has relied on Sherwood’s original estimate of $68 million for the new school.

The board had committed $10,000 to finance the preliminary stormwater approval process.

Sherwood said he has talked to all the parties involved in the next phase, and told them about the $137,000 budget for producing estimates.

Haff pressed Torizzo for a specific cost estimate regarding the water management solutions he has recommended and submitted to the state for evaluation, but the consultant said he did not have presentable numbers at this point. For example, he said, he was recommending an optional underground storm water filtration system that would save money in the long run, but might add to construction cost. The district would have to decide whether or not to spend the money now to save costs later.

Haff then asked Sherwood, “You gave us an estimated cost for the new building two years ago,” he said. “Did that include enough money to pay for the work [Torizzo] is proposing?”

Sherwood admitted the amount of money included in the per-square foot figure two years ago was based purely on historical costs in other projects, not on WCUUSD’s specific site or plans.

In other towns, such Burlington, the true cost of construction have been much higher than initial estimates.

There was some discussion about how the Covid-19 pandemic might affect both the design and the construction schedule for the new building. Agency of Education guidelines for opening elementary, middle and high schools are still evolving, so predicting the virus’s effect is tricky.

“We can’t expect the board to vote on building the new school without having a better idea of the actual cost,” Haff told the Mountain Times, “especially now, in the middle of a pandemic.”

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