The Fairfield Board of Selectmen voted Wednesday night to assign to the Town Facilities Commission the planning of a project to replace the damaged, unrepairable roof at Fairfield Warde High School. That 10-person board will create a building subcommittee to explore the roof replacement and also determine whether upgrading any other school roofs can be tied into the project.

The board members -- First Selectman Ken Flatto, Sherri Steeneck and James Walsh -- all expressed support and voted unanimously to move the project forward at the meeting, held in the first floor conference room of Sullivan Independence Hall.

The new roof will cost an estimated $6-7 million, according to the Board of Education, which requested that the selectmen take the above action on the project. State grants would reportedly help recoup some of those costs.

The warranty on the Warde roof expired in 2006. Originally built in 1991, it is plagued with leaks, as many as 34 every time it rains, according to Tom Cullen, the Fairfield school district's director of operations.

Walsh said he was a little surprised by the high cost, but Cullen said it was typical and would be an improvement over what was previously in place, due to upgrades in technology.

"The roof is at a place where it needs to be replaced," Cullen said. "It is not cost effective to start trying to rip up small areas. We got our money's worth out of repairs."

The project would be spread out over a four-year period due to its size. The Melville Avenue school has 55 separate roofs.

"This is a need, not a want," said Susan Brand, the Board of Education chairman. "I think we learned as a town that deferred maintenance costs more."

Cullen said the school district has had success using the "MyRoof," program that allows maintenance workers to track all leaks. Roof consultants are then able to easily explore what is wrong.

When the warranty was nearing expiration in 2005, some town officials thought it would be necessary to replace the roof immediately, but instead the district decided to use preventive maintenance procedures. Although those were successful for five years, Cullen said the roof has reached a point where it can no longer be repaired. Maintenance currently costs around $60,000 a year, according to Sal Morabito, the district's manager of construction, security and safety. That is the majority of roof leak costs across the district, he added.

Flatto said he was pleased that the town was able to extend the life of the roof by five years.

Walsh asked Cullen whether there would be any mold issues, a question repeated later by Steeneck. Cullen said it could be possible that mold had developed and when the roof contractor begins work, the school board will ask for tests to be done.

Cullen said additional school roofs will need to be replaced or have warranties extended, but he said those will have to go before the Board of Education before the selectmen receive that information.

The subcommittee for the roof replacement will likely be selected at the Town Facilities Commission meeting on Nov. 29, according to chairman Al Kelly.