The Tewksbury North & Trahan School Reuse Committee held an in-person session to share information and get feedback from residents. Approximately 20 residents attended.
The original format was intended to be stations on various topics pertaining to the school site where residents could ask questions and give feedback. But it turned into a question and answer session after Chair Bruce Shick gave some introductory background information on the committee.
Shick discussed that an engineering study had been done on the properties and it was concluded that the current buildings cannot be brought up to code without extensive work, and that would be more expensive than tearing the buildings down and starting from scratch. If the town opted to tear down the buildings, it would cost $2.4 million for the North St. school and $2.2 million for the Trahan, based on a quote from the Center Elementary School contractor Consigli.
Shick did point out that an outside group could come in and buy the properties and possibly get state funding to defray the costs of demolition. However, the committee does not have a current market value for the properties, and 65% of survey respondents had no desire to sell the sites. He notes the committee opted to not have the sites appraised right now due to the cost and the lack of town interest in a sale.
The committee likewise currently has no estimate for the cost to maintain the unused buildings if they remain standing for future use. Shick did point out that any money spent to keep the building systems up and running would eat into the money being saved by not taking them down. If the buildings are boarded up and the systems are not kept up and running, the town would only have to pay for liability insurance.
In a previous meeting, as we reported here, due to its central location, the school department may be interested in the North St. site in the future if the Heath Brook and Dewing schools need to be replaced. However, even if the town started that process today, it could be 10 years before it would come to fruition, which is when the new TMHS costs will come off the bond. Shick noted the property could still be used for something in the meantime, even if the plan is a site for a future school.
The residents in attendance had suggestions and concerns. There was interest in playgrounds, specifically an adaptive playground. There were concerns about the Trahan building being left up, in particular, as currently abutters have to regularly call the police due to children on the roof of the building after school hours. The majority of attendees wanted the buildings to be taken down due to safety concerns, echoing the opinions of the committee members.
The next meeting is November 3 at Town Hall, and the committee plans to deliver its recommendation to the Select Board in December.