Fairfield school renovation plans face scrutiny
A group of Fairfield officials has been educating themselves about the $1.8 million in capital improvement projects proposed by the Board of Education for the 2011-12 budget.
It started last Thursday with a look at the bathrooms at Jennings School ($250,000 in renovations are proposed) and continued Friday with tours of Roger Ludlowe and Tomlinson middle schools. At Ludlowe, the school board wants $250,000 to replace cedar siding and another $50,000 for roof repairs, while at Tomlinson, $250,000 is sought for front facade cornice work.
At 8 a.m. Friday, Board of Finance member Michael Tetreau, Representative Town Meeting member Carol Way, R-10, and Sue Brand, from the Board of Education, met with Director of School Operations Tom Cullen and Sal Morabito, the district's manager of construction, for a primer on the needs at Ludlowe.
Count Tetreau among those displeased that the school board is seeking to replace the cedar siding on one of the newer schools in town. It opened in 2003.
Cullen said the siding was installed in 2002, with the recommendation that it be re-sealed at least every two years. He said $50,000 was requested in the 2005 and 2006 budgets, but the expenditure was cut from the budget both times -- once before the budget even got to the Board of Selectmen for review.
He said cedar siding was installed to "appease the neighbors" as a way to soften the school's appearance. The cedar is on 41 "wing walls" and each has two flat surfaces, Cullen said. Part of the renovation cost will be the need to use scaffolding to reach parts of the siding.
Way asked if there are any new types of sealants that might be initially more expensive but would last longer and be most cost-effective in the long term.
Cullen said that was investigated, has have been other options such as steel siding or stucco panels to replace the cedar.
Tetreau said building committee needs to take in account the future maintenance costs of the facilities being constructed. "We've got to stop building works of art and being the cutting edge," he said. "There's a price you pay for being first."
Brand agreed that perhaps the building committee regulations need to address maintenance issues. "What happens when they're doing what they're doing in good faith, I don't think they always appreciate the maintenance issues," she said.
"We've got to get off the kick of designing new stuff that has never been done before," Tetreau said.
Funding that has to be allocated for unforeseen maintenance is money that can't be spent directly on education, Way said.
In addition to the siding, the school board wants to replace about 2,550 square feet of rubberized roof at Ludlowe, with the manufacturer supplying the materials and splitting the cost of the labor.
Tours were also scheduled Monday at the Early Childhood Center at Fairfield Warde High School and at Mill Hill School. The capital spending plans would include $105,000 for a upgrades to the existing playground and construction of a new playground at the Early Childhood Center and $250,000 for a new acoustical ceiling and lights at Mill Hill.
Other items on the Board of Education's list are $315,000 include replacing two 1962 boilers at Dwight; $125,000 to remove and replace a 1978 fuel oil tank; $150,000 for building project support at Fairfield Woods Middle and Stratfield schools; and $100,000 for parapet repairs and replacement at McKinley.
The Board of Finance votes on the capital projects list after setting the budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.