Alvirne principal pushes for $47m in renovationsBy CHRIS GAROFOLO
Union Leader Correspondent
November 16. 2017 3:05AM
HUDSON — Officials at Alvirne High School hope to enlist the support of 2,400 Hudson voters leading up to town meeting in March — just enough for the district’s ambitious $47 million renovation project to pass.
Alvirne Principal Steve Beals said he expects 4,000 voters to visit the polls on March 13, 2018, when the school’s two articles for its “Renovations for Generations” plans will appear on the ballot, and he needs the backing of 60 percent of voters for construction to begin.
The first article would renovate the Wilbur H. Palmer Vocational Technical Center to keep pace with its expanding programs and enrollment; the other is for the high school itself, including a secure main entrance and 200-space parking lot, as well as an upgraded gymnasium and performing arts auditorium that could hold just shy of 700 people.
The second warrant article can only move forward if the first is approved by 60 percent of the voters. The first article is not dependent on the second one, however.
“If it comes back because it doesn’t pass, what’s the problem? The problem is you’re going to ask for more money because it’s going to cost 5 percent escalation in the cost of construction, or you’re going to keep the cost the same and reduce programs,” Beals said during a presentation on the overall project on Monday night before about a dozen residents.
In order to achieve his targeted number, Beals and other project advocates are spending “time and energy” to get that 2,400 votes by giving presentations wherever they can — at the library, senior center, before the Lions Club or at school board meetings. Beals even said he would make his pitch in a living room, if asked.
Another public forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 27, in the high school’s music room.
The price tag for the project has raised some eyebrows. The cost of the two articles would require more than $30 million from Hudson taxpayers if both are approved at town meeting.
The anticipated state contribution to the Palmer Career and Technical Education (CTE) project is $17 million (up to 75 percent of the cost of that portion), bringing the grand total to $47 million.
The estimated tax rate impact is 46 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or $138 for a house valued at $300,000, according to Beals.
That information is based on a homeowner-friendly town evaluation last year and a conservative bond rate. The district will also complete its final payment of the Hills Garrison bond by the time this project would commence, shaving about a quarter off the estimated tax rate impact.
For supporters of the project, it is an opportunity to provide students with a new gym and auditorium. Beals said this ais the portion of the project that has created the most dialogue among residents — converting the old gym into the performing arts center.
Everything in the old gymnasium is stripped down to just the four walls to build up and furnish the new three-tiered auditorium. This performing arts facility will be available for the public to rent for theatre productions, recitals and other events, the principal added.
The new gym, meanwhile, is sized for two full basketball courts side-by-side to allow two teams to practice at the same time. It also reduces access issues for physical education and athletics with events at the performing arts center.
As for the CTE renovation, current enrollment in the programs is at 503, with an additional 674 students enrolled in CTE exploratory courses. Although overall student enrollment has dropped in town, the CTE programs have held steady and only expect to grow with future job demands in the computer, health and veterinary science fields.
Two more programs are expected to form soon.
“We’re seeing a huge amount of growth in the labor market demand (CTE-related programs), so that’s the reason we’re moving into a bigger space,” said CTE Director Karen Worthen. “The design of the space is going to be flexible enough so we can make the adjustments that we need, say, 10 years from now as we see labor market demands, students’ interests change. We’re trying to keep all that in mind so we can evolve each space as necessary.”
If approved by voters, construction would kick off in spring of 2019 with the building of the new parking lot. Total construction time is estimated to last 30 months.