School projects get the nod from the Board of Finance
Published 1:44 pm, Thursday, April 12, 2018
FAIRFIELD — Two school projects won unanimous Board of Finance approval recently, but board members had some requests of their own for the Mill Hill project.
The funding request for Mill Hill was $1.5 million in seed money, to begin the design process and get construction numbers. What had some board members hesitant, however, was whether the school additions would bring it to a 504 student capacity school.
Finance Chairman Thomas Flynn said after listening to an earlier presentation on enrollment projections, he wondered why they would be considering a 504 school for Mill Hill. “Nothing you’ve shown me has shown me we need a 504,” Flynn said. “I completely support the renovation of this school, but you're going to have a real hard time convincing me to take the gamble to have a 504 school.”
He said he would rather "get a really nice set of designs for a smaller school.”
Flynn and some other members questioned whether there would be a redistricting plan eventually adopted by the Board of Education, and argued that it would be better to have a redistricting plan prior to possible school additions.
“It’s difficult to say ‘let’s draw these lines at these locations’ for something that’s not going to happen for five years,” Board of Education Chairman Phil Dwyer said.
Dwyer suggested that they have the building committee get building schematics for a 504 school, with alternatives for fewer classrooms. Next spring, he said, they would have the construction costs for 21, 21 or 18 classrooms and “then it becomes a financial question.”
“We all have experience with building committees that go off on their own,” Flynn said. “If you say you’d like a 504, they’re going to go right for that.”
The finance board said they wanted it to be explicitly understood that they want to see three alternatives from the building committee — for 504 student capacity, 441, and 378. Dwyer said the Board of Education doesn’t supervise the building committee and suggested the finance board appoint a liaison to the building committee.
“I can give my guarantee that will tell the building committee they should listen to the tape of this meeting and do three scenarios,” Dwyer said. “All I can do is put my strong voice out there. “
The board decided to amend the bond resolution to specify the three alternatives. They also put in language requiring the building committee chairman to come before the Board of Finance when one is selected.
The other school building project was more money — $3.2 million — but it generated little discussion.
“I think we’ve been so well versed on it over the years,” finance board member James Walsh said. “I think we were expecting this last phase. We’ve been waiting, actually.”
Because Sherman is located in a FEMA flood zone, the value of construction work at the school cannot be more than 50 percent of the building’s value. That has meant that renovations and additions at Sherman have been done in three phases.
The bonding resolutions must now be approved by the Representative Town Meeting, and the changes to the Mill Hill resolution need Board of Selectmen approval as well.