On March 9, voters in Lanesborough approved the $64.8 million Mount Greylock High School building project by a vote of 633 to 499. With 1132 total votes, slightly fewer than 50 percent of eligible voters weighed in.
Since both Lanesborough and Williamstown approved the project, construction will begin this summer. The vote ends a 10-year effort to renovate the 56-year-old school building, which serves 600 students and 100 staff members from Williamstown, Lanesborough, Hancock and New Ashford.
The approved design features a new, three-story academic wing and renovations to the existing auditorium and gymnasium.
In an article from iBerkshires (“Mount Greylock School project wins in Lanesborough,” March 15, 2016), Mount Greylock Regional School Committee Chairwoman Carrie Greene said, “I’m feeling relieved more than anything else and extremely grateful to everyone who worked so hard to make this happen. There were just so many people involved from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to the School Building Committee to all these people who worked to get out the vote.”
The MSBA will pay for $33.2 million of the project. Williamstown and Lanesborough taxpayers will finance the $31.6 difference by excluding the bond debt from the Proposition 2 1/2 tax increase limit.
Lanesborough taxpayers will pay 32.3 percent of the local cost, which amounts to $10.6 million. This will cause a tax rate increase of between $1.61 and $1.81 per $1000 of assessed property value, which will increase an annual tax bill of $304 to $392.
Williamstown taxpayers will share 67.7 percent of the local cost, which amounts to $22.3 million. This will increase taxes from $1.42 and $1.60 per $1000 of assessed property value, which will increase an annual tax bill of $393 to $569.
“I deeply believe this is good for Lanesborough, Williamstown and all of Berkshire County,” Greene said in an article from The Berkshire Eagle (“Lanesborough voters approve $64.8 million Mount Greylock High School project,” March 15, 2016)). “This has been a real bonding experience for these two towns, and now we’re in a really good place to move forward and make this school building project happen.”
Officials said the cost of repairing the current building would be $58 million and the state would not share in the cost. The new 133,000-square-foot building will also cut energy costs by 50 percent.
Former Selectman Robert Barton campaigned heavily against the project. “I’m disappointed. I hoped we’d have the basis to negotiate changes to the agreement and to be doing something broader in North County,” Barton said in the iBerkshires article.
With declining school enrollment across Berkshire Country, opponents fear the project is a step in the wrong direction. “A project like this makes it harder to have multi-district solutions and that’s what we need,” Barton said in the iBerkshires article.
Before the vote, opponents distributed materials claiming a “better deal” in the future with an option of the College contributing money to offset the cost. However, the College already gives $200,000 to the annual operating budget of the school district and is creating a $5 million fund. The College also established the Williams Center at Mount Greylock to provide direct support and student tutors.
“There has been a lot of misinformation coming from people who have not been participating in the process,” Director of the Center for Learning in Action Paula Consolini, who sits on the building committee, said in the iBerkshires article. “It’s insulting that people outside the process who paid little attention to it are now telling us what we should and should not do.”
Given that both towns have approved the project, the front section of the school will be demolished later this spring while school is in session.
Phase one will involve the renovation of the cafeteria, auditorium and administrative offices. Phase two will focus on construction of the new wing and phase three will involve the renovation of the existing gymnasium.
The project is scheduled to be completed by January 2019.