Support Our Town, Our Schools, Our Future.
By Heather Beasley Doyle
Updated Dec 4, 2017 at 10:14 PM
In a Dec. 4 vote, Lexingtonians decided that construction of a new fire headquarters, a new elementary school and a new town-wide preschool will move full steam ahead, funded by a debt exclusion, according to unofficial results from the Lexington Town Clerk’s office.
With the green light from voters in hand, the town can move ahead with planning a new Maria Hastings Elementary School, a new building for the Lexington Children’s Place (LCP) town-wide preschool, along with a new fire department headquarters and a temporary fire station to house the department during construction.
In total, 6,071 of Lexington’s 21,524 registered voters cast ballots, for a turnout rate of 28 percent.
Question 1 asked if the town of Lexington would be allowed to raise $63 million to fund bonds that will pay for the design and construction of a new Maria Hastings Elementary School at 7 Crosby Road. This question passed by a 3,841-2,220 vote.
Question 2 asked if the town would be allowed to raise $14.8 million to fund bonds that will pay for the design and construction of a new Lexington Children’s Place (LCP), to be located at 20 Pelham Road. This question passed by a 3,188-2,912 vote.
Question 3 asked if the town would be allowed to raise $22 million to fund bonds that will pay for the design and construction of a new fire station headquarters on the site of the current building at 45 Bedford St., as well as $2.14 million in bonds to pay for the final design and remodeling work to turn a town-owned property at 171-173 Bedford St. into a temporary fire station. This question passed by a 3,971-2,089 vote.
The total cost for all three projects is projected at $85.78 million after the Massachusetts School Building Authority reimburses up to $16.5 million of construction costs for the Hastings School.
Campaigners against the debt exclusion argued the town would be able to finance the three projects if it found more efficiencies in town government.
Campaigners in favor of the measure argued the fire station and the Hastings school were beyond their useful lifespans, and the current LCP program was housed in a substandard building.
‘Yes’ campaign celebrates
“I’m thrilled; I can’t believe it,” said YES! For Lexington campaign co-chair Nicola Rinaldi shortly after the results came in.
“I’ve been worried ever since we started this campaign,” she said of her team’s work, especially about a “yes” result for question two, building a new LCP. “It squeaked by, but I really think it’s the right thing for our community.”
Looking back over the YES! For Lexington campaign, co-chair Kathleen Lenihan described a Lexington willing to help out her group’s full-court press to Dec. 4.
“We have given it our all,” she said.
“Pretty much anyone who wanted us to talk about why we needed these projects, we were there. We have a highly engaged community that really wants to roll up their sleeves and help,” she said.
When people asked “what can I do?” Lenihan and Rinaldi took up Lexingtonians on their offer.
New fire station ‘a long time coming’
At the YES! For Lexington’s election night party at the Aloft hotel’s lounge, LCP Director Liz Billings-Fouhy seemed almost overwhelmed by the win.
“It’s just a miracle, an absolute miracle,” she said. “It’s so wonderful to see that people turned out even if they didn’t have affiliations with the preschool.”
Standing with several Lexington firefighters at Aloft, Lexington’s Fire Chief John Wilson was clearly pleased that his department is now on the road to having a new building.
“The Fire Department appreciates the support of the citizens,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming. We’re excited to start with it.”
Opponent: Town officials too positive
Campaign for Financial Responsibility Chair Patrick Mehr criticized town officials’ stances on the debt exclusion vote, saying it was disproportionately positive.
“Zero percent of our Selectmen, zero percent of our School Committee, Zero percent of our Appropriation and Capital Expenditures Committees, 3 percent of Town Meeting and 40 percent of Lexingtonians opposed this debt exclusion,” he wrote in an email to the Minuteman. “Quite a disconnect between Town government and those it’s supposed to represent.”
For his part, Committee for Masterplanning Before Building a New Preschool Chairman Mark Andersen said he felt that there was value to his campaign, which advocated a “no” vote for the LCP question.
“I think it was productive,” he said.
“There was a lot of engagement, especially people on fixed incomes, and how the town’s tax increases are affecting them,” he added. “It was certainly heartening to connect with these people and to hear their stories.”
Nonetheless, the triple “yes” vote worries Andersen, as he believes that the town’s financial models don’t accurately project the reality of tax increases looming ahead for Lexington. While the town projects an approximate 27 percent increase in taxes over the next 10 years, he said, he believes that figure to be 44 percent--putting the median Lexington homeowner’s annual tax bill at about $17,700 in 2027.
Andersen said that while everyone agrees that the projects are worthy, there’s a difference of opinion in how to approach financing big-ticket municipal items. His campaign “argued that the preschool is not a cost-effective investment relative to the other investments that the town needs,” he said, a new high school among them. The town, he said, has not taken funding for a new high school into account with its modeling. The question now, he said, is “will [the town] strictly adhere to the projections they made, or not?”
Dear fellow Lexingtonians,
On Monday December 4, Lexington voters will go to the polls to decide whether to pass a “debt exclusion” to pay for three building projects: the Maria Hastings Elementary School, Lexington Children’s Place (LCP) public preschool, and the fire station headquarters. We write today to introduce the “Yes for Lexington” campaign, mobilized to help inform voters about these projects and advocate for their completion. These vital facilities are all currently operating in substandard buildings. Investing in these projects will improve the education system and public safety for all of Lexington.
Hastings is the oldest school building in town. There are numerous structural and physical issues with the building; read more at www.yes4lex.org. Importantly, the new building will be nine classrooms larger, allowing for overcrowding relief at other Lexington elementary schools.
LCP is the state-mandated integrated public preschool, delivering services to children who qualify for special education, alongside “typically developing” peers. In 2015, the LCP outgrew the rooms it occupies in Harrington, requiring a portion of its programming to be moved to the Central Administration Building until a permanent solution could be found. That solution is a new building on Pelham Road. Moving LCP will free up four classrooms at Harrington, further relieving town-wide elementary overcrowding.
The Bedford Street Fire Station Headquarters has been recommended for replacement since 1993 and is beyond the point of repair or renovation. Replacement is the only option if we are to accommodate today's heavy equipment, call volumes, and training and education needs. We can no longer delay meeting this critical community need.
To learn more, please attend a campaign coffee (“Events” at www.yes4lex.org) or our kickoff event at the Depot, on November 1 from 7-9pm.
Kathleen Lenihan (Bloomfield St.) and Nicola Rinaldi (Garfield St.)
Yes for Lexington Co-Chairs
By Weihua Li
Posted Oct 10, 2017 at 12:33 PM
The Maria Hastings Elementary School may soon get closer to securing the necessary funding to demolish and reconstruct its 62-year-old building, which parents and school leaders say is sorely needed.
At Lexington Special Town Meeting on Oct. 16, voters will decide whether the town will approve $63 million for the project, up to 35 percent of which would be reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). If Town Meeting approves the funds, Lexington voters will head to the polls in December to approve a temporary tax increase—called a debt exclusion—to pay off bonds issued to cover the cost of the project, design work for a new home for the Lexington Children’s Place preschool program, design work for a new fire station and funds to build a temporary fire station.
“We are really trying to kill two birds with one stone,” said Kathryn Colburn, a member of the Lexington School Committee.
Hastings, the town’s oldest elementary school, would finally see its “old, deteriorating” facility replaced, she said. Moreover, the new building would add nine classrooms to the district, easing the pressure on other over-capacity schools.
Room for more students
The new school building, if approved at Town Meeting and in the December vote, would have 30 classrooms, increasing the school’s enrollment capacity from 430 to 645 students, making Hastings School the largest elementary school in Lexington.
As a district, Lexington’s enrollment continues to grow at a rate of 2 to 2.5 percent per year, Lexington Superintendent of Schools Mary Czajkowski said.
Out of the district’s six elementary schools, the Bridge Elementary School and Bowman Elementary School are beyond capacity, Czajkowski said. With the Hastings reconstruction plan, officials are trying to project long-term enrollment and to adapt to the growth, she added.
In an effort to “build a building that will take us into the future for at least 50 years,” Colburn said the new school’s design highlights environmental issues; currently scheduled for completion by February 2020, the building will not use fossil fuels for heating and cooling.
“We are trying to be as cost-effective as possible with the design,” Colburn added. “It would be an attractive building, and it would have all the features we need to deliver the educational program, but it’s not going to be luxurious by any means. We are really trying to keep the cost as manageable as possible for the community.”
Many problems with building
The Hastings School, built in 1955, is the last of six elementary school buildings in Lexington to be renovated or replaced, according to a Statement of Interest that the school district submitted to MSBA in 2015 for state funding.
In the same document, officials listed several of the school’s shortcomings, including eight modular classrooms that have exceeded their useful lives, inadequate space for special education, and a 170-square-foot nurse’s office that is “unhealthy” to house more than one sick child.
During Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment system (MCAS) tests, to provide quiet testing areas for small groups and individual students, school staff members have to use a number of classrooms and administrative offices, including the psychologists’ office, according to the document.
“Essentially, what happened is that we are trying to provide a 2017 education in a 1955 building,” Colburn said.
Nicola Rinaldi, the co-president of the Maria Hastings Parent Teacher Organization and a mother of three, said she hopes her youngest two kids, who are in third grade kindergarten now, will get to experience the new Hastings school building in 2020. Among other benefits, she noted, the new building is designed to have air conditioning.
“A teacher recently recorded 96 degrees in her class room,” said Rinaldi, who also co-chairs the campaign for the new school building. “We have kids who are trying to learn, but how can they focus on learning when they cannot stop thinking about how hot they are?”
Space for special education students
As a Hastings parent, Rinaldi said one of her main concerns with the current school building is that the infrastructure is simply too old.
Most new features that would come with a new school building are not “nice to have,” Rinaldi said.
“[They’re] necessary to have,” she said.
For example, although the current school building has a fire alarm system, it does not have sprinklers.
While the Hastings School houses more than 30 students in the special education program, the school does not have enough space to accommodate kids with special emotional needs, Rinaldi said.
“I’ve personally seen a kid working with a teacher in the hallway,” Rinaldi said. “They had a table to sit at, but they are right out in the open, and there is no privacy. I could go on and on and on.”
Czajkowski, Lexington’s superintendent, said Hastings is a safe school. However, while the town has maintained the school as well as possible, the lack of classroom space and other problems “are not up to the standards of what we expect here in Lexington,” Czajkowski said.
“I believe that this particular school needs to be replaced, needs to meet the challenges students face not only in our regular classroom, but also in our special education classrooms,” Czajkowski said. “I have been in some of those classrooms, and they have been there for quite some time.”
By Matt Mallio
Posted Aug 10, 2017 at 5:17 PM
Lexington Fire Chief John Wilson said he approved of the new design direction of the proposed fire station. A new iteration of the project was presented before the town’s Permanent Building Committee Wednesday evening.
“We love this design,” said Wilson after a presentation by Jeffrey McElravy of Tecton Architects at the Aug. 9 meeting.
“The inside,” Wilson added. “It’s fabulous.”
“It’s all about having the ability to train, indoors and outdoors,” said Wilson. This new design provides dedicated indoor and outdoor training areas as well as a three-story tower that can be used for training with ladders or simulate sprinklers, and other training exercises.
“And that’s an important thing to have,” Wilson said.
A large part of the current design centered around sustainability and energy efficiency. McElravy said that this current design was 30 percent more energy efficient than the standards put forth by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Condition Engineers, or ASHRAE.
“When you do 30 percent better than that,” said McElravy, “you’re doing pretty darn good.”
Lexington is in the midst of a drive to decrease its municipal buildings’ carbon footprint. Lexington’s current environmental standard is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Silver. In LEED certifications, building designs are awarded points as to how energy-efficient the building’s design is. McElravy said they will meet the Silver standard easily and possibly hit the next level, which is LEED Gold.
The building, McElravy said, was an “all-electric” design which would have solar panels and a geothermal heating system. Architects were also looking into insulation and HVAC options for the building to help them achieve a design that would produce or conserve as much energy as it draws from the power grid.
Environmental concerns for the site revolved around wetlands, invasive species in the site as well as treatment for contaminated soil, if any. McElravy said designers also have had extensive discussions with engineers about how to manage stormwater.
Committee Chair Jon Himmel asked for members of Sustainable Lexington be included in the discussion about sustainability.
“We are looking to get a package out to our estimator so we can get an estimate to bring back to you in September,” said McElravy.
Cost estimates are to be discussed in September meeting with the goal of including the project in the planned fall Town Meeting, scheduled for October.
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