Last week I attended two very informative and thought-provoking meetings at Devens.
The first was a Fidelity Bank Breakfast meeting to introduce the people behind the movie sound stage project, which will be fully operational in August, 2013. Chris Byers (director of studio operations) referred to this area as "an unpolished gem."
George Ramirez also reported that the 2/3 of "not to be called Evergreen Solar Building" has been leased, and that Bristol Meyers Squibb is considering more space at Devens.
All food for thought about the future of our area that made me decide to attend the Chamber of Commerce presentation of the proposed new Ayer-Shirley Regional High School project. It was a small gathering, but very enlightening.
I was not a proponent of regionalization, what with taking on the burden of a school region with just two towns, and especially with the misleading and outright incorrect information and numbers that were flying around. But, here we are. Let's move on.
When I attended the meeting, I was on the fence, but having the opportunity to have my reservations addressed one-on-one with Murray Clark, of Ayer, and School District Superintendent Carl Mock, who chose to live in our community, several things helped me to make a decision to support the project.
Foremost, the cast of characters who propose the project has changed from those in the regionalization process. The new faces (and some that remain) represent a better cross section of both towns.
Ayer residents have stepped up to the plate by voting to absorb a portion of Shirley's Middle School debt. Although the right thing to do (approximately 60 percent of Ayer-Shirley Middle School students are from Ayer), this vote showed a commitment to the region and will lower Shirley's cost for the high school project for several years.
Alan Wilson, the regions' facilities consultant, has said that the Lura A. White School is not falling down! Also, that the probability is that LAW can limp along for seven to nine years or so. Therefore, we will not likely incur major elementary school debt until the Middle School debt is paid.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority -- a tough board to pass projects through -- whole-heartedly supports the project. Its reimbursement amount (along with historically low interest rates for borrowing) will never be as favorable as they are now for our new region.
Financially, what makes the most sense to me is to invest in our area schools to enhance our own property values. I watched as my own children bought homes. The first thing they did was to get on line to see where the best schools were in communities that they might afford.
I don't ask this lightly -- considering that I am self-supporting with one of the larger properties in Shirley -- but, please support the Ayer-Shirley Regional High School project and polish the gem!