Church vote nears on sale of property for new Rundlett site

  • Citizens aligned with the initiative Rebuild at Rundlett are urging the Concord School District to rebuild the middle school on it's current South Street site instead of buying new land on Clinton Street. Rebuild at Rundlett

  • Proposed 38-acre site for a new Concord middle school on Clinton Street.

Monitor staff
Published: 9/29/2022 6:42:00 PM

The future of the Rundlett Middle School building project will reach a critical juncture in the coming weeks as the CenterPoint Church congregation plans to vote to accept or reject a purchase and sale agreement for land on Clinton Street.

For the last several months the Concord School District and the church have been negotiating terms for a possible sale of a 38-acre plot of land at 129-139 Clinton Street, which the district is eyeing as the future location of a new middle school.

CenterPoint’s voting will take place over two Sundays – Oct. 9 and Oct. 16 – to make sure as many congregation members as possible have an opportunity to be heard. A two-thirds majority will determine the outcome.

David Pelletier, business manager at CenterPoint Church, said there are “several points,” that the school district and the church disagree upon, but declined to elaborate further.

“We have communicated internally (among the members) information regarding where things stand so that members can be fully informed prior to the membership voting on October 9th and 16th,” Pelletier said.

Jack Dunn, Concord School District business manager, said Thursday that the district hopes the church members vote in the affirmative.

“I think they have some concerns as it relates to what their overall mission is and what they want to do with that land, and that’s for them to decide,” Dunn said. “The board is where it is on that property and what it can do and what it’s willing to offer. We’ll let them vet that process through whatever means they do.”

If the CenterPoint congregation votes in favor of moving forward with a purchase and sale agreement, the Concord School Board will then have to vote publicly on the same thing. If the congregation votes no, Dunn said he will ask the School Board to decide whether to keep looking for new properties or to proceed with the project using the old Rundlett site.

“There is a lot more work to do. I think we’ve said from the beginning that it’s a lengthy process,” Dunn said. “But [CenterPoint Church] has been great to work with, a good group of people. So we’ll see.”

Concord School District officials announced their intent to purchase the land back in March. The parcel of land is close to the Langley Parkway and Exit 2 of Interstate 89, yet it is located just a mile from the current Rundlett Middle School location on South Street.

At the time of the announcement, CenterPoint lead pastor Matt Fur said he was interested in the sale because the project had the potential to enrich the community, something that is part of the church’s mission.

The school district submitted an application for state building aid over the summer, and representatives from the state visited the current Rundlett building to do a walkthrough on Sept. 22, according to Dunn. In the application, district officials estimated the total project cost to be about $176 million and are requesting about $70 million from the state in building aid.

Concord School District is one of 15 districts applying for building aid for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, and of the 17 projects that have been proposed, theirs is the most expensive. The other applicants’ projects range in price from $2 million to build a secure entryway in Monroe to $75 million to build a new elementary school in Derry. Among the applicants, Kearsarge Regional High School is applying for funds to renovate its science and technology wing.

Dunn said the $176 million project cost estimate includes things like geothermal energy to make the building carbon-neutral, and other requests from the community that will be re-examined once they learn how much funding they will be allotted from the state.

Several things make the Clinton Street site attractive to the school district, including that it is within walking distance of Memorial Field and Concord High, it has enough space to allow for outdoor learning opportunities and is big enough to accommodate a potential partnership and shared facilities with Concord YMCA. In addition, the construction process would not impact students at the current Rundlett site.

But the project proposal hasn’t been greeted with enthusiasm by all community members. This summer, a community group called Rebuild at Rundlett formed in response, to advocate for scrapping the Clinton Street plan in favor of re-building the new middle school on its current South Street site. The group has expressed concern about the danger of car traffic on Clinton Street and the environmental impact of the project on the unused land, and has been vocal at school board meetings and distributed lawn signs around the city.

“I think it’s been a good healthy process,” Dunn said. “I think the board has appreciated the community’s feedback, what it’s received so far, and there’s still a long way to go.”

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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