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Cost, Location & Design of New Elementary School Finalized

110,000 Sq Foot Building Will Be Built On Track Behind Flo Ro. Total Cost Is $80 million
by Connie Sartini
 
Town Manager Mark Haddad advised the Select Board that plans are being finalized for replacing Florence Roche Elementary School and prepared for submission to the state. The plan is to construct a new two-story 110,000 square-foot building to be located on the site of the track behind the existing Florence Roche Elementary School, with an $80M projected cost. The old school is slated to be torn down.
     The land and the existing Florence Roche School are currently owned by the Town of Groton and leased to the Groton- Dunstable Regional District for $1 per year. All expenses are paid by the district.
     Selectman Josh Degen asked, “Didn’t we spend few hundred thousand on the track a few years ago?” and asked if there would be another track. Select Board Chairman Alison Manugian responded, “Yes, but it was determined that the high school track would be sufficient and that there was no intention to replicate the track.”
     Haddad told the Board that there is a question of “Who bonds this project? Is Groton responsible for the Debt Service? Does the School District need to bond this and the town repays it?” He stressed that the issue needs to be decided if the town is going to bond it, or if the Regional School Agreement needs to be amended to avoid the requirement of a two-thirds vote by both towns to take on debt. Haddad said he recommended amending the regional agreement, noting that with the AAA Bond Rating, “we could get a good rate.”
     Select Board Chairman Alison Manugian stressed that there are ramifications depending on who owns the building. Degen was of the opinion that the Regional School District should own the school and the state should commit to reimburse the liability of the total debt of $80M on the building. Haddad calculated that based on that number, for a 25-year bond, it would cost $61 per month to every taxpayer or $18,000 over 25 years. Select Board member Becky Pine said she felt that Groton should own the building, and all costs would be Groton’s. She pointed out that if in the future some of the new school space was declared to be excess, “I do not want to pay to use it.”
     Right now, all students at Florence Roche Elementary School are from Groton, and in Dunstable, Swallow Union School houses only Dunstable students. 
     Tax Collector/Treasurer Michael Hartnett said he would be concerned with “an $80M debt on our books without assets. We will need to check with our town auditors.”
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