BOF takes issue with classroom added, removed for Mill Hill Renovation

Mill Hill Elementary School 635 Mill Hill Terrace in Southport, Conn. on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.

Mill Hill Elementary School 635 Mill Hill Terrace in Southport, Conn. on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.

Cathy Zuraw / Cathy Zuraw

FAIRFIELD — The Board of Finance took umbrage with the Mill Hill Building Committee for adding a classroom to renovation plans and then removing it and claiming it as a savings.

During the Monday night meeting, Board members were mainly focused on a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics classroom that was scrapped from plans for the Mill Hill Elementary School renovation.

The committee was seeking approval of plans to increase the bonding for the project by nearly $1.3 million to $23,275,500. The board approved the motion, but amended it to include a stipulation that the money could only be spent on aspects of the renovation that were in the approved designs.

The Board of Selectmen had previously approved the increase. During that meeting, committee Chairman Tom Quinn explained why the cost was higher than the schematics had originally projected: external work and work inside the school.

The site work outside included increasing the storm water retention capacity and bolstering the soil so the buildings do not sink. It is estimated to cost $530,000.

The work inside the school, in part, consisted of putting in an HVAC system, installing acoustical dampening equipment and electrical work. Quinn said that has been estimated to cost $745,000.

The committee listed the elimination of the classroom from the plans as a savings of $320,000. That equated to more than 40 percent of what the committee claimed were cost reductions to the construction budget.

Board member James Walsh said it seemed “not right” of the committee to add the STEAM classroom into the plans without approval, even if, when it was planned, the project was still within budget.

“You know you can’t afford it, but you’re kind of listing that as a savings for us,”said Walsh. “When in actuality, you had no money to be able to do this.”

Several members of the committee said they wanted to take action to prevent building committees from adding to plans without approval in the future.

Board member James Brown said that Quinn, who has chaired two other school building committees, runs the projects he is tasked with well. But, he added, the town cannot have buildings committees adding to plans without approval.

Edward Bateson, another board member, asked for the committee to send the chairman a report on the status of the project compared with what was approved by the board in 2019.

“As a taxpayer, I want to make sure that what I’m approving is ... the same as what I approved in 2019,” said Bateson. “My fur has gone up because I saw that we added a room.”

Board members were unsure if amending the resolution to increase bond spending would require it to be re-approved by the Board of Selectmen, but were sure it would be if that was the case.