Wellesley had a strong turnout for the Nov. 3 Presidential election, with a roughly 90% of registered voters casting ballots. That’s probably too much to ask for the Dec. 1 Special Election, but hopefully residents will cast ballots since we are talking about whether or not to approve a multimillion project designed to extend the life of Wellesley Middle School by 25 years.
Then again, this 80-plus-word, run-on sentence of a ballot question is a just a tad less clear and inviting than “Biden or Trump?”
Shall the Town of Wellesley be allowed to exempt from the provisions of proposition two and one-half, so-called, the amounts required to pay for the bonds issued in order to provide construction funds, architectural and engineering services, construction administration, project management, and any associated costs related to the novation of the Middle School Building Systems located at 50 Kingsbury Street to accommodate the classroom and/or administrative needs of the School Department and/or other educational needs of the Town, and for any other services in connection therewith?
Translated, residents will cast ballots on the question of whether or not to approve a debt exclusion to fund construction costs for assorted Wellesley Middle School building systems.
It’s too bad we didn’t let a Middle School English class take a shot at simplifying this ballot question language first.
If the town votes “Yes,” then the renovation will proceed as designed. If “No,” then it won’t, and the Wellesley will be faced with more decisions about how to go forward with its school infrastructure. The article on which this ballot question is based flew through Advisory Committee and Special Town Meeting recently.
Here’s what the town says about a ballot-related question many of you are probably asking: So how much will this raise my property taxes?
For properties worth $1,158,000 (current median Wellesley home value), annual property taxes would increase by about $164 in the first year, then fall from there over a period of 10 years. The increase would begin in July 2021.
In the meantime, if you’re looking to make sense of all this check out a Special Town Meeting presentation from the Permanent Building Committee on the project, estimated its cost to be more than $12.7 million.
For more background, scroll down to page 19 of the Advisory Committee report that was delivered before the recent Special Town Meetings to get its take on this project, described in Article 2 of Special Town Meeting 1. The Advisory Report predated the STM presentation and shows the estimated cost of the project closer to $14M.
The construction project is part of a multi-phase effort to extend the middle school’s life by 25 years. A separate paving project would also help keep the school going. WMS typically serves more than 1,100 six, seventh, and eighth graders.
The building systems project, based on a design scheme developed over the past year, involves replacement of heating and ventilation units in the gyms, kitchen, and auditorium, plus an overall kitchen renovation (note that the kitchen serves both WMS and the elementary schools). Air conditioning is also planned for the auditorium, which as anyone who has attend a WMS graduation can attest, is needed. Classroom improvements, security updates, exterior fixes and sustainability improvements are big parts of the project, too.
WMS was constructed in 1950 as a junior high school. Major building additions were made in 1958 and 1966 (this is when the Kingsbury wings were added). In 1982 a second elevator was added and certain repairs were made following a fire. Another renovation, which included asbestos removal, took place in 2005. (Thanks to Suzie Littlefield for the history.)
A Yes for WMS group in support of the project has formed. We haven’t come across an opposing group, if there is one. Only a handful of Town Meeting members voted against the article for the project.
Vote-by-mail ballots are being sent to all residents who requested them for the Dec. 1 election or for all 2020 elections (we heard from a reader who had already gotten his ballot by mail). To request a mailed ballot, contact the Town Clerk’s office at 781-431-1019 ext. 2252.
Residents may also vote in-person on the day of the Special Election.
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