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Many eyes on school building site

Conservation, historic commissions will be watching impact

July 25, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Although the formal conditions attached to the Conservation Commission's permit for the middle/high school project have nothing unusual in them, both commissioners and project engineers plan to be paying close attention to how the school develops.

So will neighbors and the state Historical Commission.

"We'll start site visits as soon as they get out there with a machine," said Chairman Ken Pickren, noting he wants to make sure things like the parking lot are stable enough to prevent the site from becoming "a muddy mess" in the spring.

"It's a big project, but it's fairly straightforward," said Commissioner George Parent. "It's not complicated as projects go."

Although the project planning isn't yet complete, Aaron Gallagher, the project's civil engineer from Nitsche Engineering, said the cost estimators are tabbing it at $8 million to $10 million for site work and around $68 million total construction cost. The state's paying just under 80 percent of the bill, but the state's share doesn't include the cost of running utilities to the site or alterations to Torrey and Guelphwood roads.

Those alterations, however, have become a concern of a couple of neighbors and the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which object to the impact on two Torrey Road homes that are listed on the state and federal Registers of Historic Places.

"Current plans call for widening Torrey Road significantly and adding a 5-foot sidewalk, which will cause physical destruction and alteration of State Register properties through land removal," a letter from MHC Director Brona Simon states. "… The MHC recommends that an environmental impact report be scoped to include 1) a geotechnical study for the effects of blasting on these fragile historic resources … and 2) a transportation alternatives study to explore other access routes."

Commission members noted none of those issues are within their purview, but the request would likely mean the Planning Board will have to revisit the project. That board has already had its site plan review hearing and approved the project unanimously.

See Tuesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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