Potential Elementary School Properties Compared For Site Work, Cost

As the Littleton School District advances options on what to do with the aging Lakeway Elementary School, Cathy Conway, of Horizons Engineering, gave updates and site work cost estimates this week for two properties that the district has been eyeing for a new elementary school building.

LITTLETON — As the Littleton School District advances options for the aging Lakeway Elementary School — renovate the existing building, renovate and expand the old middle school building, or build a new school — Horizons Engineering has put together cost estimates for site work on two properties.

If the route ultimately taken is to build a new elementary school, the district has been focusing on two properties in particular — the 29-acre Greenwood Acres at the top of Oak Hill Avenue above the high school, and the 17-acre parcel at the top of Grove Street and off of Crane Street that has been offered as a donation by the Daughters of the Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a convent for retired nuns.

Viability studies for the Greenwood Acres site began around 2007, but the site was given another look to update it to 2021 numbers, Cathy Conway, of Horizons Engineering, said during Monday’s school board meeting.

Also looked at more closely in recent months for updates was the Daughters property.

“There’s about a $650,000 difference between the two sides, with the Daughters being the less expensive,” she said.

In 2020, after the Daughters offered their land to the district, Horizons began studying it.

In coming up with what would be needed in terms of on-site and off-site work and municipal infrastructure, Conway said the same school and field configuration and a number of parking spaces were used on each for a similar comparison.

Each site would need municipal water and sewer line extensions, sidewalks extending onto the school properties, each would have wetlands impacts, and each would need about 2,000 yards of granite ledge removal.

While the Daughters property can be accessed from Grove Street, a further look shows the easiest access for busing and vehicles can be made off of the wider Crane Street, said Conway.

Littleton Water and Light concluded that water pressure and supply would be adequate for a school on the Daughters property.

An 8-inch water main runs through the development area that would have to be lowered or relocated and there is a fairly new 12-inch sewer main nearby on Crane Street that can provide a connection, she said.

About 9,000-square feet of wetlands would be possibly impacted, which is a minimum impact just below the maximum impact of 10,000-square feet.

With site work, clearing, off-site improvements, sidewalks, and other work, the total estimated site work construction cost for the Daughters property is $2.842 million.

For Greenwood Acres, a road would need to be built to the school and Horizons Engineering proposes some widening on Oak Hill Avenue, she said.

“We delineated all of the wetlands and there’s more impact with wetlands on this particular parcel, more than 10,000-square feet, and that bumps you up to a major impact, and mitigation would also be required,” said Conway.

One concern there was water pressure because of the height of the land, and a suggestion was to create a loop to have water flowing from two directions, said Conway.

The total estimated cost for Greenwood Acres on-site and off-site work is $3.572 million.

Major players in the cost differential are 2,780-linear feet of access road for Greenwood Acres versus a very short 100 feet to come off of Crane Street for the Daughters property, she said.

Greenwood Acres would also have to run 1,300 feet of sewer line to connect to the main ends at Oak Hill Avenue versus running about 420 feet of sewer line at the Daughters property.

As for wetlands, more than 20,000-square feet would possibly be impacted on Greenwood Acres, she said.

“When you’re over that threshold, you have to pay money into the state fund or you have to have wetlands available elsewhere,” said Conway.

Because it is too preliminary, the wetlands mitigation cost for Greenwood Acres was not included in its $3.572 million site work estimate.

“I think [the state] would look at a developer differently than they would look at a school district,” said Conway.

SAU 84 Superintendent Bill Hart asked if both sites are viable and Littleton School Board SAU 84 Chairman Greg Cook said yes.

“The results of our feasibility analysis do not appear to present any constraints that would prevent an elementary school on either site,” said Conway.

In recent years, voters have rejected town meeting proposals for engineering and design work for Greenwood Acres, which in past warrant articles came with a property purchase cost of $500,000.

At the March town meeting, they defeated an article asking for $30,000 to hire a project manager to evaluate options and present them to town meeting voters in 2024.

A Lakeway Elementary School Committee is being formed to take over the work that would have been done by a project manager.

The committee will also study funding that could be available from the state and reduce the local taxpayer share.

The most recent total estimate for a new school was about $20 million.

The district has been trying to get building aid from the state that would cover at least 55 percent of the cost of a new school.

In the long run, school district officials and SAU 84-enlisted architect, Kyle Barker said building a new elementary school would be less expensive than renovating the 70-year-old Lakeway building on Union Street that Hart said last year is long past its life expectancy.

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