April 20, 2010 | last updated March 23, 2012 4:05 pm

Natick Plans New High School, Senior Center

The state will pick up almost half the tab on a new Natick High School, but town taxpayers will still be on the hook for about $65 million related to construction and interest costs.

The Town of Natick is set for some major construction projects in the coming years.

Last month, voters approved about $100 million of new public construction projects, including a new state-of-the-art energy-efficient high school and a completely refurbished community senior center.

How did town officials get both projects approved in such a difficult economy?

Town Administrator Martha White said the state is offering to pay for more than half the costs of the school project, an offer voters couldn't refuse.

Plus, with contractors hungry for work, White is hoping the town will be able to secure competitive bids on both projects.

"Even though the economy is tough, I believe taxpayers realized that not only is this a good time to build, but we are getting some great financial support from the state," White said. "When you have an offer like that on the table you have to grab it, [because] you don't know how long it will be around."

Major Upgrade
Voters went to the polls last month during a special election to approve the high school project by a nearly 5-to-1 margin. The senior center renovation was approved by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, White said.

The state's Massachusetts School Building Authority, which for the past few years has been supporting school renovation and construction projects, is set to pick up more than half of the tab on the new, $89 million Natick High School.

Peter Sanchioni, superintendent of Natick schools, said the current high school was built in the 1950s and is failing in numerous aspects. It has a leaky roof, outdated heating systems and single-pane windows. Its age also makes it difficult to renovate the facility for new technology.

"The building was not built for 21st century education," he said.

Planning for a new high school began in the mid-1990s with feasibility studies, so Sanchioni said a new school has been a long time coming. The new about 250,000 square-foot school will be built on the same site as the current, more than 330,000 square-foot high school.

Natick maximized its reimbursement rate from the MSBA to 53 percent of the cost of the project. State officials, he said, encouraged school planners to use a model high school building design and cater it to Natick's needs. The district scored even higher reimbursement rates by embracing as many energy-efficient components as possible, including a roof that maximizes skylights to reduce the need for indoor lighting and installing occupancy sensor lighting and heating components. Sanchioni said the new school will save an estimated $45,000 a year in energy costs.

Sanchioni expects the project will be put out to bid this summer. He hopes for the school to be ready for the fall of 2012.The architecture firm on the project is Ai3 Architects of Wayland.

Even with the state's reimbursement, however, Natick residents and businesses will still be on the hook for about $65 million over the next 20 years to pay for the project. That includes $45 million in direct construction costs and almost $20 million in interest.

Combined with the $10 million loan for the senior center construction, which will also be paid for over the next 20 years, Natick taxpayers will see the highest increase in taxes in each of the next two years.

The average Natick household will pay an additional $308 because of the projects next year. In 2012, that same average resident will pay $301 more than the 2010 level. By 2016 the average resident will be paying $274 more than the 2010 level and by 2030, the final year of paying for the project, residents will be paying $178 more than the 2010 levels.

The new community senior center will be built on the same site as the current facility and will include $10 million in renovations, White said. Those include a new gymnasium and a new meeting area that will be large enough to hold community-wide events. That project is also expected to be complete by 2012.


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