By Steven Fletcher
Mayor Carolyn Kirk has asked City Council for $500,000 to pay for a feasibility study in advance of building a new school in West Gloucester.
Approving money for the study, which would be aimed at determining what that school would look like and where it would go, is the last step in Gloucester's eligibility process to gain potential and partial project reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
The money, said Kirk, will come as loan authorization out of the city's general fund.
If the state authority takes on the project, it will reimburse the city for 48 percent of the cost for the study, if the project is ultimately built. The city would also be eligible for 48 percent reimbursement for school construction as well.
The proposed study will examine the project from size and enrollment to location. Approving the funding source, aside from paying the engineering firm to do the study, would move the city into the next stage of the project.
"(The study) will nail down the question of whether or not we need to build a new school or renovate West Parish," said Kirk.
The loan authorization request heads to the city's Budget and Finance Committee next week. That committee's chairman, Paul McGeary, , said the funding request would be up for a public hearing in mid-May.
While the feasibility study funding will move through council channels in the typical manner, McGeary said the council should involve the city's Capital Improvements Advisory Board if the Massachusetts School Building Authority commits to going ahead with the project. The project may be worth it because of reimbursement, he said, but the city will have to look at it in light of other capital improvement needs.
"It makes sense to review West Parish in the portfolio of capital expenses we have," McGeary said.
The West Parish school building project was put on the state authority's list of potential projects or "eligibility period" in January, the second time it has been on the list. The agency's approval gives the city until November to have the groundwork set for the feasibility study.
School Committee Chairman Jonathan Pope said the city could have the groundwork done by June, depending on the City Council vote.
"The next step is to secure funds to move forward," Pope said.
The feasibility study, he said, will examine the whole project. When it's done, the city will have documents ready to put the construction of a new West Parish school out to bid.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority, he said, has some "ready-made" school plans, designs they've used time and time again.
The city has to hire an engineering firm approved by the state authority, Kirk said. That firm, said Pope, will figure out the size, location and dimensions of the school.
Monday, the school district and city submitted their own evaluations of the city's enrollment and demographics, fiscal capabilities and maintenance practices.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.