WOBURN - The City Council last night began formally consider whether the community should back the construction of a new $320 million facility for local students attending Northeast Metropolitan Technical High School.

Included on the agenda for Tuesday's regularly scheduled meeting in City Hall was a request from Mayor Scott Galvin to borrow approximately $15.7 million to cover the community’s share of the school building project in Wakefield.

According to Galvin, the proposed new school, which will be four-stories high and contain a host of new state-of-the-art vocational shop spaces, will without a doubt be a vast improvement over the existing 1968 high school facility.

“The annual debt service will be approximately $900,000 over the next 30-years,” Galvin explained to the council in an Oct. 14 memo.

“The new vocational school will feature a 21st century learning environment will state-of-the-art shop space. This strategic long-term investment in vocational education will enhance our children’s talents, broaden their skills, and better position them to obtain good high-paying trade jobs.”

Given the size of the financial outlay, the City Council was likely to refer the Northeast Metro Tech matter to its Finance Subcommittee for additional review. However, because Northeast officials are asking the district’s 12 member communities to act on the funding requests by early November, councilors won’t have a whole lot of time to debate the request.

While addressing other communities about the building project, which will benefit from an oversized $140 million contribution from the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA), Northeast Metro Tech Superintendent David DiBarri has explained that communities that don’t act on the funding request will be presumed to be supportive of the undertaking.

In light of that deadline, Galvin is asking the council to act on the debt service order by no later than Nov. 8.

Situated off of Hemlock Road near Wakefield High, Northeast Metro Tech provides vocational and career-focussed educational studies for at least 100 Woburn students each year. This year, 114 pupils from Woburn are enrolled at the regional high school.

First erected in 1968, the 240,000 square foot facility was last updated back in 1970 and contains a multitude of outdated building systems. Despite being occupied by 1,281 students, the aging facility was built to house around 900 pupils.

According to DiBarri, with hundreds of students wait listed each year because of space constraints, the new four-story building will be resized to accommodate up to 1,600 learners.

Featuring a full-sized gymnasium, a 750-seat auditorium, and specialized classroom and learning spaces for special education (SPED) students, the proposed $317 million high school will also include energy-efficient mechanical systems and sustainable design elements like solar panels and vegetated roofs.

As Galvin explained in his memo to the council, the MSBA’s involvement in the building project will substantially decrease Woburn’s financial commitment for the project. Like all member communities, Woburn’s share of the project is based solely on local enrollment trends.

Without the MSBA’s financial pledge, the city would be facing a $28.2 million bill for the new high school.

Several years ago, city officials, aware of Northeast Metro Tech’s construction objectives, voted to establish a special stabilization fund to begin saving for the project.

Should Woburn reject the funding request, city residents and citizens in all 11 other Northeast Metro Tech communities will be asked to vote on whether to fund the project during a special election that will tentatively be held in early December.

With city officials in Chelsea already indicating they are likely to reject the building project, it appears increasingly likely that a special election is forthcoming.

“The construction of the new vocational high school will proceed only if all 12 communities in the district, through their legislative bodies, do not oppose the project,” Galvin wrote in his recent memo to the council. “If there is one or more negative votes, The Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School committee plans on holding a district wide referendum vote for all registered voters in the 12 communities in the district this winter.”

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