Fairfield school projects on hold over cost estimates
"I have no confidence whatsoever in any of the numbers you've ever given me," Steeneck told Board of Education members and administrators at the meeting, where the selectmen were to vote on funding for a list of capital projects for both the school system and town. "I'm really kind of tired of it."
The school district submitted a list of projects totaling $1.7 million that ranged from roof and boiler replacements to a new playground.
Steeneck and Walsh both said they did not have time to review a 50-page document supporting the requests that they received just prior to their meeting.
Board of Education Vice Chairman Pam Iacono said the additional material was brought to the joint selectmen and finance board meeting the previous night, but they said it was not given to them until Wednesday.
Iacono questioned why the school projects were being singled out for review by the facilities board, while the town's were not. The selectmen later decided to add several of the town's projects to the TFC review as well, although TFC Vice Chairman James Gallagher said while the committee would be happy to review the town projects he didn't think it is necessary.
"Considering the diligence and great work demonstrated by public works' history, oversight by the TFC is redundant," he said.
Public Works Director Richard White said his department wouldn't mind a review of the new roof proposed for the Fairfield Senior Center. "We'd like to have someone looking over our shoulder on the Oldfield roof," he said.
Questions about estimates supplied by the Board of Education have been a topic of discussion at town boards recently.
The Representative Town Meeting earlier this week approved consultants for roof work and window replacement at the high schools, but bemoaned the lack of detail in the funding request. The RTM also took the school board to task for first giving a $1.9 million estimate for renovations at Sherman School that turned out would have cost a total of more than $4 million.
Concerns, however, were raised that if the vote were delayed, the school projects would not be able to start this summer. Gallagher said the TFC would be able to get a quorum for a special meeting and make its recommendations to the selectmen prior to a March 14 meeting.
Thomas Cullen, director of operations for the school district, said many of the cost estimates are based on past projects. "We also reach out to some of the contractors working in town" for estimates, he said.
"We're all very interested in this," Gallagher said, referring to the school capital projects. "I think it's important the town take advantage of the TFC. That's what they're there for, to expedite and coordinate."
From a personal standpoint, Gallagher said he questioned the $250,000 to replace cedar siding at Roger Ludlowe Middle School. He said cedar siding turns color as it ages and weathers.
Flatto said it is not up to the TFC to decide what projects the town will actually do, but it is within that panel's purview to indicate if there are other ways of doing a project. He said he, too, disagrees with the school board's approach on the cedar siding.
"The TFC in no way wants to inherit an adversarial position," Gallagher said. "If anything, we're here to expedite things. If you were at the RTM the other night, you know this isn't going to go anywhere."
The capital projects approved by the selectmen Wednesday include a new fire pumper, $540,000; flood control in the Holland Hill area, $250,000; remediation site work for the new fire training center, $120,000; traffic signal upgrade at Fairfield Woods and Palm Drive, $120,000 and new concrete paths for handicapped accessibility at Lake Mohegan, $52,000.