Fairfield Board of Ed to move out of Julian building
FAIRFIELD — The Board of Selectmen has approved a lease for a new Board of Education maintenance facility in Bridgeport.
The move would bring the town one step closer to severing ties with Julian Enterprises, which owns the current Board of Education building.
Julian is the subject of an ongoing criminal case related to its management of the town’s Public Works pile that has led to the arrests of two town employees and Julian’s co-owner.
Joseph Michelangelo, who served as the town’s public works director since 2012, is accused of conspiring with Scott Bartlett, the town’s superintendent of public works and Jason Julian to allow the company to dump truck loads of contaminated waste into the pile.
Julian then resold some of the contaminated soil as clean fill for construction projects in the town. After testing 60 sites at parks, fields and playgrounds, the town identified eight areas that need to be cleaned up.
Removing the materials, including arsenic and asbestos, is expected to cost the town millions.
In addition to the criminal case, the town is locked in a civil suit with Julian in an attempt to get back the money spent on the fill pile and cleanup.
The Board of Education and town management had originally asked the Board of Selectmen to renew a 10-year, $1,066,614 lease with Julian for the Board of Education building at 418 Meadow St., citing a lack of alternative options and moving costs.
The Selectmen were reluctant to approve the lease and urged the Board of Education to look for an alternate location. After news broke of the arrests in August, the district stepped up its search for a new facility and ultimately found space in a former cabinet shop at 3400 Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport, just over the Fairfield border.
The district is looking to sign a 10-year, $1,382,282 lease on the new space.
The new lease will be more expensive in total than the old one by almost $316,000, as well as require over $140,000 in moving costs.
However, the new facility is double the size of the Julian building and has a lower cost per square foot. This will allow the district to move not only their maintenance department, but also the transportation department and central storage to the facility.
The transportation department currently operates out of a trailer, and central storage is located in an over-capacity space in the basement of Warde.
“It’s a great deal per square foot, and we’re getting a great space,” said Board of Education Vice-Chairman Nick Aysseh. “I think, long-term, this is a great decision.”
Selectmen Ed Bateson and Chris Tymniak both thanked the Board of Education for honoring their request to look for a new location.
“I’m happy that you guys took this board seriously,” Bateson said. “There was a situation, and I’m happy that you accommodated us.”
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to approve the lease, sending it to the RTM for approval at their Oct. 28 meeting.