READING - The Killam School Building Committee last night selected Worcester-area consulting firm Terva Corporation as the leading contender to serve as the operator’s project manager (OPM) for a proposed school construction project.

During a meeting in Town Hall’s main hearing room on Monday, members of the 15-person building committee voted unanimously to authorize Town Manager Fidel Maltez to enter into contract talks with the Whittinsville-based company for the OPM role.

In the unlikely event that both sides can’t come to an amenable agreement, Maltez was further authorized to negotiate with second-ranked OPM firm Colliers International.

According to the town manager, he expects to ink a tentative deal with an OPM to represent the community’s interests during an upcoming Killam School feasibility study before June 14, when the Mass. School Building Authority’s Board of Directors will be asked to okay the town’s selection.

“We need to submit to the MSBA by June 14, so this has to go fast,” Maltez explained.

Once a contract is formally inked with the Terva Corp., local officials will be able to turn their attention towards hiring an architectural firm, which will explore possible replacement options for the 57,000 square foot elementary school off of Charles Street.

The Worcester area consulting team beat out three other competitors vying for the professional services contract. With teams of specialists promising to “assist the Town in navigating the MSBA process, identifying potential risks, proposing and leading solutions, and delivering results,” Terva has more recently managed the $105.5 million Marshield High School project, the ongoing $120 million construction of a new middle school in Walpole, and an $80 million middle school project in Natick.

Other finalists vying for the contract included Colliers International, Boston-based Anser Advisory, and Hill International Construction Management.

Ultimately, a designer selection subcommittee, consisting of a handful of appointees from the larger Killam Building Committee, ranked Anser and Hill International in third and fourth position for the OPM contract.

“We had a unanimous opinion, which is a little surprising. We didn’t have any fisticuffs, to say the least, and we all ranked them in the same order,” explained OPM selection subcommittee appointee John Coote.

“I want to thank the four of you for holding back-to-back hour long interviews [with each of the finalists]. That’s a lot of work,” later commented Killam Building Committee Chair Patrick Tompkins last night. “It was definitely a fair and open process for all of the candidates.”

Back in March of 2022, the MSBA, which could reimburse Reading for roughly half of the costs associated with constructing a new Killam School, invited the community into its five-stage funding pipeline.

Currently, the town is moving towards the feasibility stage, in which the OPM and a still-to-be-named architectural firm will explore options for renovating or rebuilding the aging elementary school. The MSBA formally advanced the town into the feasibility stage back in March of 2023.

Back in 2018, Gienapp Architects was asked by the town to create an elementary school master plan that addressed growing school capacity constraints across the district.

At the time, the district had already paid for the installation of new modular classrooms at three of the community’s four elementary schools, and central office administrators were also looking for additional space to accommodate the district’s growing pre-K and kindergarten programs.

In an initial report first released in the fall of 2019, the Danvers-based architectural firm presented nine different options, with overall pricetags that ranged between $52 million and $128 million, for alleviating classroom space shortages.

Two of those proposals called for constructing a new Killam Elementary School on the existing Charles Street property. Ultimately, the district informally sanctioned a plan which calls for the construction of a new two-story elementary school capable of housing between 660 and 725 students. To free up space at other buildings, around 115-students from across the district would then be redistricted to the new Killam.

Back in 2021, when the School Committee voted to seek state funding from the MSBA for the Killam school project, local officials estimated it would around $78 million to construct a new facility on Charles Street.

Since taking over the state's defunct school building assistance program in 2004, the MSBA has contributed more than $14 billion towards school construction projects. Currently, communities partnering with the state agency are generally reimbursed for 40-to-50 percent of “eligible” construction expenses - which do not include design elements like auditoriums or athletic fields and complexes.

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