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Will the town soon begin work to renovate the DePaolo Middle School and Kennedy Middle School or will it be back to the drawing board for members of the Middle School Building Committee?
It's a question that officials will soon have the answer to as Southington voters take to the polls today to determine the fate of the middle school renovation project.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. at Derynoski Elementary School, the only voting location for the special referendum, and will remain open until 8 p.m. this evening for the first re-referendum on an already approved project in Southington history.
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The project was initially approved by more than a 2 - 1 margin during referendum in November 2011, but a variety of challenges discovered after preliminary assessments including the discovery of extensive levels of PCBs have pushed up costs for the project.
Extensive meetings and value engineering by members of building committee helped to reduce costs closer to the $85 million originally approved, but to maintain quality and meet the needs the renovation aims to address, the project will need an additional $4.725 million.
For some, however, there is a belief that the taxpayers wallet is empty.
On an article published Monday on Southington Patch, user Mary D'A said taxpayers are already stretched and the town shouldn't be asking for any additional funding:
"This is just far too much money to spend on some perfectly adequate buildings. We are expecting a lot of other fiscal needs to burden the taxpayers in Southington in the months ahead and we are already cutting programs and other expenses so things like this and the ill-advised high school playing field could get rammed through. There is absolutely no reason we need to burden ourselves with a $90 million expense for two buildings. Just plain nonsense. And if the quality of thought is like that with the first renovation --- Sheeesh!"
Still others have shown unwaivering support for the referendum, saying it's both necessary and important for both the community and the children in Southington:
Rich: "VOTE YES...PLAIN AND SIMPLE...A no vote means you don't care about the children...A no vote means you don't care about education. A no vote means you'll pay MORE later...There is a reason this passed by a landside the first time..."
The responses have been heated and include strong opinions for both sides, to say the least.
Although the latest referendum calls for additional bonding, officials have said it would actually mean a reduction in costs to the local taxpayer thanks to higher levels of state reimbursement as a result of value engineering and new legislation that provides additional funding as a result of the court mandated Project Choice program.
If the referendum passes, the town will move forward with remediation and construction the day after schools close for the summer. If it fails, the town will have to determine if it is worth making additional cuts and moving forward with an $85 million budget or scraping the project and eating the $2.7 million already spent on required environmental tests, project design and other incidentals.
So how will you vote? Get to the polls today and let your voice be heard.
Want more on the facts of the project? Be sure to see a complete FAQ in the Patch article "Do You Know the Facts on the Middle School Referendum?"
Be sure to see Monday's article "Project Choice Providing 'Unexpected Benefits' in Middle School Referendum" for more on how the town could actually reduce costs to local taxpayers using existing programs if additional funding is approved.
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