With a guarantee Monday from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that the vapor walls encapsulating PCBs will be allowed to remain in tact and with the approval of final designs by the Middle School Building Committee and Southington Board of Education, the fate of the project now lies solely in the hands of the state and the town’s voters.
A decision by the EPA on Monday will eliminate a potential $8 million additional cost in the project, locking in estimates of approximately $9.2 million for the remediation of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from the DePaolo Middle School and Kennedy Middle School.
“Kimberly Tisa (PCB coordinator for EPA Region 1 in Boston) reported to us that as long as all the existing conditions remain the same as it relates to the air quality in both buildings, the vapor barriers will be allowed to remain,” said Christopher Palmieri, town council minority leader and member of the building committee.
“It’s a big win for the town and something we felt it was time to put pressure on, ” he said. “We had been waiting for over two months since presenting our plan. It was time to get an answer.”
Let Patch save you time. Get local news like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
The announcement came at 3 p.m. during a conference call following ongoing work between Congressman John Larson’s staff, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Commission Deputy Chief Macky McCleary, Hygenix Inc. environmentalist James Twitchell and many other state officials, Palmieri said.
It was reassuring news for members of the Middle School Building Committee and Southington Board of Education, who faced a reality of seeing the renovation project come to an abrupt halt if the alternate plan was not accepted.
The town is still responsible for remediation of any PCBs not sealed within walls and as a result of the agreement will also be responsible for conducting annual air quality tests at both middle schools to assure there is no concern of potential contamination.
“The only walls that will not be fully remediated are those that will remain in place, untouched during construction,” said committee chairman Edward Pocock Jr. “We will still be responsible for full remediation of any PCBs and vapor walls that will be exposed during the course of the renovations.”
Thomas DiMauro, construction manager and project executive for Newfield Construction of Hartford, said remediation would be done in two parts, the first portion during summer of 2013 and the remaining remediation in sections during summer 2014. No students or staff will be present during the remediation process, he said.
Pocock said it took hundreds of hours of work to reach the agreement and send a revised plan to the state – one which was done through a rare joint meeting involving multiple boards – but that in the end, it puts the town in a better position to complete the project in an effective and efficient manner.
“This certainly wasn’t what we envisioned when we entered the design stage, but this addresses all concerns and does so in a responsible way,” he said.
Due to the unexpected cost increases, however, the project still needs approval from Southington voters who will go to back to referendum on March 19 – the first re-referendum on any project in the town’s history.
The $9.2 million PCB remediation, paired with other unexpected design development costs, pushed the project over budget. Voter’s initially approved $85 million in bonding, but the current cost for the project is set at $89.725 million, $4.725 million over budget.
Palmieri notes that while the overall cost is higher than expected, the town’s taxpayers will actually see positive returns from approving the referendum a second time, with value engineering changes actually increasing state aid by 4 percent and Project Choice, a program which brings students in from outside the district, allowing for an additional 2 or 3 percent reimbursement on the project.
The result is a net savings of approximately $940,000 to $1.8 million for Southington and its taxpayers, despite the higher overall price tag.
“The important thing now is to make sure the voters understand what they are voting for,” Palmieri said. “It is something that will cost the taxpayers less money in the long run, but we need to make sure they fully understand how we got here.”
Curious to know how the process works? Read complete details of what to expect in the article "Middle School Plans Nearing Completion as Deadline Draws Near."
Other News and Notes…
In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, members of the Board of Education and building committee each questioned safety measure that will be in place, both during the construction process as well as in the building’s final designs.
Committee member Melissa Sheffy said that officials have had discussions with Newfield Construction regarding the project and although there is an aggressive timeline to help finish the project in two years rather than three, there will be no interaction between construction workers and those in the school community.
“They will have separate facilities (such as bathroom facilities) and there is a badge system in place to assure that our students remain safe and that no one is in the building unless they belong there,” she said.
The plans also call for the construction of a vestibule at the entrance to each school requiring all visitors to go directly to the main office once being buzzed in and strategically places the main office in a position where administrators are able to see all activity at the school.
Make sure to like Southington Patch on Facebook and follow on Twitter for breaking news, daily updates and more!