The vote was not quick and easy, but the Board of Selectmen (BOS) on Wednesday supported a request by the Board of Education for core upgrades at Roger Sherman School.

Discussion went on for some time as the BOS members debated capping the project at a certain amount. First Selectmen Ken Flatto suggested capping it at $1.6 million (half of $3.2 million, the appraised value of the building), because, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, renovations to a structure in a flood zone that cost more than 50 percent of the structure's appraised value will turn it into a far more costly project.

Flatto said: "The rule is set at 50 percent of the value of the buildings and that if work in a building exceeds that, FEMA and DEP require any such building to be brought to current FEMA levels of flood safety."

The current 11-foot elevation FEMA requires is three feet above the old 1970s and prior standard to which buildings are built, said Flatto, so any building with "major work" as they define it as the 50 percent rule (for homes, schools, any building of any kind within a flood plain which the entire beach area is classified as) are required to be rebuilt at that higher level off the ground water table, or a wall has to be constructed entirely around a building to prevent flood water damage.

"This was first looked at for us with the Oldfield senior center and the architect study said to renovate the building for a school use or any major renovation would require a wall around the building or the option of tearing the building down and rebuilding it new at the three-foot higher off the ground level. Roger Sherman School, said Flatto, is in the same boat.

While Flattion's cap recommendation was made so the building doesn't have to undergo a prohibitively more costly upgrade to meet current FEMA levels of flood safety, BOE members in the audience -- during the public comment portion of the meeting -- were against a cap.

"When you start to put a number on it, it gets very problematic," said BOE member Catherine Albin.

Flatto's suggested cap falls $325,000 short of what the education board's facilities, technology and long range planning committee has estimated will be needed for the core upgrade work. Some of the bigger ticket items ($50,000 and above) on a breakdown list provided at Wednesday's meeting include $500,000 for new mechanical means of fresh air and air conditioning; $300,000 for new stage addition off of the gymnasium; $230,000 for a new kitchen addition for increased freezer, refrigerator and storage space; $180,000 for all-purpose room expansion for increased enrollment; $50,000 for new ceiling and lights for portions of school not previously performed; and $50,000 for new lockers throughout the school. A miscellaneous items category, totaling $150,000, included asbestos abatement; air clearance consultants; architectural/engineering; start-up and training to take over new equipment; protection and cleaning of school; and unforeseen conditions during demolition/new construction.

Flatto, citing Fairfield Woods as an example of a project that skyrocketed in cost, felt the BOS should "set the tone" for the upgrade work at Roger Sherman School. However, the BOS would vote 2-1 not to include Flatto's suggested cap in its charge to have the special projects standing building committee oversee the core upgrades and renovations at the elementary school.

While the school needs work in many areas, Board of Education Vice-Chairman Pam Iacono said Roger Sherman's most pressing need is cafeteria work, as the students presently don't have enough time to eat lunch with the long waits in line. However, this problem will be addressed with the renovation work. In addition to the $230,000 expanded kitchen area, $20,000 in funding is slated for new cafeteria upgrades for a second serving line. If all goes well, the renovation work could be completed by fall 2011, according to Flatto.

He said last Wednesday that the special projects standing building committee, before going to the various town boards with an actual funding request, should look into whether seeking state funds for the project is worthwhile. If funding is minimal, he added, it may not be worth a possible delay that could see work continue past the start of school in fall 2011.