Franklin Avenue School Building Committee begins work, remotely

Franklin Avenue School.

WESTFIELD – The School Building Committee for the Franklin Avenue Elementary school project met remotely on April 28 with Daniel Pallotta of P3 Project Planning Professionals, the newly selected Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) for the feasibility study.

Pallotta said that he will be guiding the committee through the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s process for the grant to build the school. He said he has worked on various projects in Westfield since 2011 with Robert Tedesco of P3, who was also on the call.

“We’re really excited to get going. We want you to get the maximum money from the MSBA, while getting you the maximum educational value,” Pallotta said.

Pallotta then presented a basic schedule of the work to be done over the next two to seven months. The next step will be to advertise for a designer in conjunction with Purchasing Director Tammy Tefft. The Request for Services is expected to go out on May 6 and come back to Westfield on June 3.

“That will give us a week to select our top choices and who we want to represent Westfield at a designer selection committee,” Pallotta said, adding that the MSBA representatives will have six votes, and Westfield three. He said they will try to give the city their selection, “but sometimes they don’t. That selection is scheduled to occur on June 7, however it may be deferred to the following meeting,” he said.

Pallotta said once the designer is under contract, the work really starts. “The committee will have to work hard on the preliminary design plans that have 12 or 13 options. You usually end up with 12 or 13 choices. We’ll walk down those steps with you, but you will be deciding which direction the design goes.”

When the plan is approved, the next step is to move into the preferred schematic design, which is approved by the MSBA Board of Directors. This phase ends with two estimates, one from the OPM and one from the designer, which must be reconciled. Once the two teams agree, the final budget becomes the basis of the grant. Then the MSBA Board has three to four months to approve the grant.

Pallotta said it’s important to think about appropriations “from day one.” He said all of the committee’s decisions will have a financial number attached to them.

“We need to not drop the ball on the educational needs,” he said, adding that they want to make sure there’s enough flexibility in the building to meet future needs. He said the committee will be making tough decisions, but everything works by vote. “In the end you’re going to get a great building because all of you have agreed,” Pallotta said.

Representing Westfield on the committee is Chairman Mayor Donald F. Humason, Jr., Vice-Chair Tefft, Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski, District CFO Ronald R. Rix, Franklin Avenue Principal Chris Tolpa and Abner Gibbs Principal Stacy Burgess, School Committee representatives Ramon Diaz, Jr. and Cindy Sullivan, City Council School liaison Ralph J. Figy and Ward 3 Councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane, Facilities Director Bryan Forrette, Boys & Girls Club Director Bill Parks, Westfield Architect Chris Carey, Parent representatives Shelly Hazlett and Lisa Wengert, and former Mayor Brian P. Sullivan.

Tolpa asked in what part of the process will subcommittees be added to bring in parents and teachers on the plan.

Pallotta said decisions will have to be made as to how their involvement occurs. He said teachers must be a part of the process, according to MSBA rules.

“We will listen to teachers, administrators, and (parents) in both schools, but the decision won’t be theirs. The superintendent has a really big role in this. Almost every document gets signed by the chair of the building committee, the mayor, superintendent and chair of the school committee..It’s too early to say where subcommittees are going to go,” Pallotta said.

In response to a question regarding changes on the process due to the pandemic, Pallotta said the MSBA will issue advisories on its website. He said following the school shootings at Columbine and Newtown, there were advisories on security. He said to date, none have been issued.

He also said the city will be encouraged to design an energy efficient building, in response to another question.

Tefft asked whether she will need a committee to review the responses from designers. Pallotta said a committee of five to seven volunteers, including a designer, engineer, ranking member of the school department and whoever else she chooses should review the responses, and rank Westfield’s top three choices.

Pallotta said after the design selection process, the real work of the committee will start in about mid-August, then every other week until October.

Tefft said meetings will be broadcast and held in City Council chambers, unless a larger venue is warranted. “We want to make sure people are invested in this and kept up to date,” she said.

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