Sherman School project gets go ahead from selectmen
FAIRFIELD — The third phase of renovations and upgrades at Sherman School along with $3.2 million in bonding for that project, unanimously past the Board of Selectmen.
Unlike at the town’s other elementary schools, work at Sherman has had to be done piecemeal because of its location in a FEMA flood zone. If the work being done equals more than 50 percent of the building’s value, FEMA regulations, such as elevating the structure, would kick in.
Sal Morabito, manager of construction, safety, and security for the school district, said the phase three costs have been reviewed by Planning Director James Wendt. He said Wendt was in agreement with their projections that they fall under the FEMA level.
According to Morabito, the FEMA threshold is $2.61 million, and those projects costs that fall under FEMA total $2.55 million.
“Where are we at risk, where can things go a little outside the boundaries, Selectman Kevin Kiley asked.
Any unknowns, such as the discovery of a hazardous material, Morabito said, can pose a risk, but he added that he believes such abatements are exempt from FEMA rules. “The addition is for the stage and gym, if we had to blast,” Morabito said. “That’s the one place where there’s ledge on the site. If we had to blast that could be an additional cost.”
First Selectman Mike Tetreau questioned why the project was not adding any classroom seats to the school.
“The classroom count is not changing,” Morabito said. “That’s not the mission of the project.” Phase three updates the fire suppression and air conditioning systems, and removes the stage from the all-purpose room. A stage will instead be built in the gym.
Removing the existing stage, he said, will increase the capacity in the APR during lunch to 200 students.
Portable classrooms at the school were removed when the school’s “annex” was added in an earlier phase.
Tetreau said because the project has to meet FEMA limits, it is “thin on contingency at this point, and the risk factor is that the bids come back high.” The contingency account is $150,000.
Morabito said the contingency is excluded in the FEMA analysis but that’s because you don’t know yet what the contingency might be needed for — exempt or included items.
Sherman parent and Representative Town Meeting member Jill Vergara urged the board to support the project. “We desperately need it,” Vergara said. “We have a very full school, we’re one of the most enrolled schools compared to any of the other elementaries.”
Sherman is the only school south of the Post Road, Vergara said, and as such, is an important asset.
“It’s a very important project that has to get done,” Kiley said. “The community needs it.”
Selectman Chris Tymniak agreed. “I absolutely support this. It’s one of those school you wish you could do all at once.”
Tetreau said it is a project that must be monitored closely, due to the FEMA regulations. “It could have a significant cost impact if we don’t follow FEMA regulations,” the first selectman said, adding there may be future phases if needed.
The selectmen are currently looking for people interested in serving on the Sherman Building Committee or the Mill Hill Building Committee.