GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 9, 2013

Letter: Tobey column shows Fuller's school viablilty


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

My thanks to Councilor Tobey for shedding light on the actual condition of Fuller School in his My View Column headlined “A real inside look at Fuller School” (the Times, Wednesday, Sept. 4).

It concludes that Fuller School is in much better condition than has been publicly represented by our leaders in City Hall, on the School Committee, and on the City Council.

My thanks also to Councilor McGeary for sharing with me an important document, (3.1.6 Preliminary Evaluation of Alternatives, Dore & Whittier Architects, Inc.). It reveals how the $110 million estimate for the renovation of Fuller School was calculated. Dore & Whittier simply state that renovation of a portion (roughly half) of the Fuller School for the purpose of temporarily housing West Parish students is estimated to cost $67,011,000 — yet there is no documentation, no itemization of costs, and no explanation of how the estimate was derived. The $110 million figure was extrapolated by our leaders to reflect the added cost of renovating the remaining portion of Fuller School not included in the first estimate.

This is exactly what I have suspected all along — a guesstimate of the cost of renovating Fuller School has been presented as “fact” to the public in order to sway popular opinion away from considering Fuller as a viable school.

While I’m assured that Dore & Whittier are reputable architects, expert in school construction, I would like to know the methods of how they went about calculating this $67 million figure.

Would it not be in the best interests of the city (and taxpayers) to have something more than a “preliminary estimate” before such an important decision is made? Should a second opinion by an impartial third party be obtained before such an expensive project is commenced? I think so.

According to this same document the preliminary estimate for the cost of building a new West Parish school, after razing the current one, is $40,899,000. This is not a bid, and there could easily be cost overruns. Should we extrapolate the cost of replacing Beeman, East Gloucester, Plum Cove, and Veterans elementary schools as well? Are they likely to bear a similar estimated cost of $40 million each? Might the actual costs increase?

We’re looking at a very expensive proposition, one that bears more than a casual back-of-the-envelope calculation supported by no documentation, then extrapolated to guess the real costs for a viable and cost effective alternative to meet the current and future educational needs of the students of Gloucester: the renovation of Fuller School.

I encourage all who are concerned about the future of Gloucester and its finances to urge their councilors to include an option of using Fuller as a school in the referendum slated for the November ballot.

Tuesday marks the final City Council meeting before the ballot deadline, and that’s when the wording for this referendum is to be finalized. I plan to be there.

TOM COX

Haskell Court, Gloucester