Full steam ahead for Twin Valley school construction


WHITINGHAM -- Although plans for the former Twin Valley High School building in Wilmington are still being developed, construction at the Whitingham site moves forward at an even faster rate with school out for summer vacation.

"The whole building now is open to construction and remodeling," said Twin Valley School Building Committee Chairman Phil Taylor. "We really don’t see any possibility of any real delay on the construction and I think we’re going to have sufficient time to get in there and set up."

The committee feels pretty good about fulfilling its goal of having most of construction completed for August and all of it completed for the students’ return in September, Taylor said. The project fell behind by approximately four weeks in the winter due to some setbacks that included weather and issues with contractors. It is also believed that this construction will come in line with the projected budget.

The building ultimately will serve as the Twin Valley Middle and High School. For the complete consolidation of Wilmington and Whitingham schools, pre-k through 12th grade, it is expected to cost $14 million. Elementary students have already spent a school year in the former Deerfield Valley Elementary School in Wilmington.

Approximately $160,000 is left for additional items to be considered for purchase. That is part of the contingency fund but not all of it.

"There’s little items and things that make the school nicer you want to make sure you get in," Taylor said. "We’ve kind of backed down on what we think we have to spend."

In past interviews, Taylor has touted the benefits of value engineering, a practice that would allow for more careful tracking of spending. The committee chose to go with construction management for the project rather than engage in a general construction agreement.

The crews currently at the Whitingham facility are busy working on nearly every aspect of the building. Middle school students left the school for the summer. When they return, they will be joined by high school students. Previously, middle school students from both towns went to the Whitingham facility and high school students from both towns went to the Wilmington facility.

The last phase of clearing asbestos from the Whitingham building is currently under way. Once that job is competed, all the sections of the building will be moving towards a finished product, Taylor told the Reformer.

"They’re going all out on everything, basically, from the exterior grounds to the art room, the gym and the administrative offices," he said.

The administrative offices are scheduled to be ready first in order for staff to settle in. Construction crews will then finalized other areas.

Taylor stood in the footprint of the gym when the foundation was going to be poured with former Whitingham Elementary and Middle School Principle Keith Lyman. They both wondered if the space would be as big as they anticipated.

"We even went to remeasure and just take a look. And we were obviously right, once you get a roof on, go inside and the floor is poured," said Taylor.

According to Taylor, there is capacity for benches to seat teams on both sides but it was decided one side will be left open for teams only. Then there’s space for approximately 450 spectators, although Taylor believes 1,000 people could probably fit into the room it if the balcony space is included.

The changing of the Twin Valley name was discussed by the board at one point.

"That’s kind of settled down for now," said Taylor, who asked board members how they felt about changing the name of the school. "I don’t know if that will come up again."

He had inquired at a time when signs were about to be designed for the building and wanted to avoid having the signs changed if the board later decided to change the name. Across the awning that will come up over the building, a sign will read "Twin Valley" in steel lettering.

A study regarding the Wilmington site, currently being facilitated through a Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery grant, is approximately halfway complete. The building was vacated for the summer and forever by students. Taylor said he will be speaking with the Selectboard at an upcoming meeting about the project, where he hopes to get some feedback but also provide an update on the study.

"The big thing is finalizing a bunch of details about the scope in terms of getting a cost," he said. "We’ve got some legal counsel on how that facility can be governed."

One idea that’s still popular among those involved in the project is making the building a center for economic and community development. Providing health and wellness services still remains a large part of that idea.

Mindful of other groups in the town and region, Taylor says a new one would have to work with those that already exist. He expects the report to be completed in approximately a month and a half.

Taylor previously told the Reformer potential tenants include the Deerfield Valley Health Center and the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union.


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