The planning stage is nearing completion as the town’s Middle School Building Committee prepares to send plans regarding the renovations of Kennedy Middle School and DePaolo Middle School and while there have been no changes in the past month, things are about to pick up.
“There hasn’t been much change, but we are working feverously to complete the documents that the state needs by the deadline next week,” said Edward Pocock Jr., chairman of the committee. “We have invited all of the town’s elected officials to take part in finalizing the plans that will be sent to the state during a special all-board meeting on Monday.”
For those on the outside looking in, sending the project to the state at this point may seem out of place, but Pocock said it’s necessary to keep the project rolling on a proper timeline.
The town last month began moving forward with a plan that could send the middle school renovation project back to referendum – the first time the town has needed a re-referendum on any project, according to Southington Town Attorney Mark Sciota – after it was determined that costs for the project would exceed the $85 million in bonding approved by voters.
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Members of the committee have been plagued with challenges since the project first began, – $100,000 to remediate 700 cubic feet of contaminated soil and $21,000 for soil to fill the space with – as well as $9-16 million for remediation of PCBs from the two schools.
There is no cost to install a new tank because the oil tank was previously replaced in 1980 and the school will change to natural gas as part of the renovation, officials confirmed this week.
The costs haven’t changed since November, Pocock said Tuesday, and it is still unknown if the federal Environmental Protection Agency will approve the $9 million remediation.
If not approved, it could threaten to kill the project as a whole, but members of the committee and Jim Twitchell, an environmentalist with Hygenix, Inc., of Stamford, are confident that they will be able to gain approval for the lesser plan, which would permanently and safely lock PCBs within walls that are not being demolished as part of the renovation.
So with no voter approval on the news costs and no approval from the EPA, why is the town moving forward?
Simply put, for effective time management.
Based on the schedule of the bonding committee, the town needs to submit the plans now or risk not receiving approval in time to begin the project in 2013, Pocock said. Furthermore, keeping costs manageable will require moving quickly, he said.
“It’s all part of the plan to get this project done. This is something the town needs to do and it’s only going to get more expensive the longer we wait,” Pocock said.
The committee is confident that – especially after considering it will actually lead to savings for local taxpayers in both the short- and long-term.
Christopher Palmieri, minority leader of the Southington Town Council and member of the committee, said that due to changes in square footage as a result of the elimination of a second teacher’s lounge area and other unnecessary space needs, the town will now receive a 56.07 percent reimbursement, a 3.55 percent increase over when the project was first approved.
Palmieri said the town is also seeing added benefits including an additional 2- or 3-percent reimbursement as a result of the town’s involvement in Project Choice, a program that brings students from Hartford to Southington.
In all, it would lead to savings to the the town and taxpayers totaling $940,000 to $1.8 million due to increases in reimbursement, he said.
Brian Goralski, chairman of the Southington Board of Education, said the first step is getting every board involved and on the same page. It’s a step that the committee will take with the meeting at 5 p.m. Monday in the assembly room at the Southington Municipal Center.
“(Pocock’s decision) to get all town boards together is wise move,” Goralski said. to have everyone on same page before go to state."
Pocock said although the public input phase has long passed, the public is welcome to attend the meeting and get a first-hand look at the plans once they are approved.
Pocock also said that in the end, the fate of the project will ride on those who decided 4-1 to approve the renovations in the first place: the voters.
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