Chairman of Middleborough High School Building Committee; former selectman and town moderator
Yes. It is time for Middleborough to build a new high school.
The Middleborough High School has made tremendous gains in recent years in curriculum development, innovative programs, and creating a positive school culture. It has seen dramatic growth in Advanced Placement course enrollment, excels in student leadership participation, and operates a unique Futures Alternative High School Program. While everything is moving in the right direction, the limiting factor has become the facility.
The present high school was designed in 1969 and completed in 1971. It has been a great building for the town, but its educational concept, its architecture, and its systems were all conceived in the 1960s, and their deficiencies have to be addressed as we approach 50 years of service. The mechanical, plumbing, electrical, and building envelope systems are at the end of their useful life. The building does not have a sprinkler system and is not accessible for the disabled. It has many interior classroom spaces that have no natural light and inadequate ventilation. A detailed engineering evaluation of the building has documented these issues, as well as some significant structural problems.
A feasibility study the town undertook in partnership with the Massachusetts School Building Authority carefully examined many options including; system and code upgrades only, additions and renovations, and construction of a new facility. That study, conducted with a great deal of public participation and input, concluded that the best long-term solution for the town is the replacement of the existing facility with a new one. It is the most cost-effective way of addressing all of the facility and educational issues that have been identified, while being the least disruptive to the ongoing operation of the school.
So, for Middleborough voters, the choice is not between funding a new school and doing nothing. The issues that have been documented cannot be ignored. The choice is between working with the MSBA and their matching funds on a new school that will serve the students and the town for 50 years, or to go it alone and invest significant town funds in system upgrades in the old building.
Len Heikkila Jr.
One side of the coin tells us we desperately need this new school because the current one is falling apart and it’s likely to be a health hazard; I don’t know if that’s true or not, but we probably could use a new high school.
The other side of the coin wants the town to be fiscally responsible.
We were told we needed a new fire station near the rotary; it was built but is manned only during storms. We needed a new fire station in the town center because it was falling apart; we built it. We needed to upgrade the wastewater facility; we are doing so. We needed a new police station; after heated debate over the location, we finally approved it, with a tax increase. Now the new police station is still under construction and property owners are being asked to absorb another big hit on their property taxes for a $104 million high school.
There are a lot of people in town living pay check to pay check, and this additional tax increase ($391 annually per average household) is just going to be too much for them. People are already stretched too thin due to taxes and skyrocketing healthcare premiums.
We need to be fiscally responsible here and pay something off before we add yet another major project. All of us have things we need and/or want but don’t have them because we are held to a budget. Our own homes are suffering because we lack the funds for repairs, so we wait until we do and so should the town.
There is talk about adding a new elementary school in the near future. New housing developments going in will require water and sewer. As the population grows, the town will ask for more police and fire resources. There won’t be an end to this, and that is exactly what people are worried about: Taxes won’t go down, only up. The town may be growing too large and too fast for taxpayers to handle. We need to remove some of our debt before we proceed forward. I hope voters will reject this proposal.
Last week’s Argument: Is the Trump administration right to order an end to the DACA program?
Yes: 61 percent (14 votes)
No: 39 percent (9 votes)
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.