The state has approved plans for the renovation of DePaolo Middle School on Wednesday and with the Southington Town Council approving a referendum for March 19 earlier this week, the fate of the project now lies solely in the hands of the voters.
It’s a best case scenario for the project, which appeared to be potentially doomed just a few months ago when members of the Middle School Building Committee learned that the project would require environmental remediation costs that were higher than anticipated.
“To be here, to come before the council and be able to present something that could potentially save the taxpayers in town money, it’s a testament to members of the working committee and the effort they put in,” said Edward Pocock Jr., chairman of the building committee. “They deserve all the credit for us being able to present a reasonable plan to the voters.”
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When voters take to the poll on March 19, they will be asked to approve $89.725 million for the project, almost $5 million more than voters approved in a 2011 vote. The primary reason for the increased cost is $9.2 million for unexpected PCB remediation needs at both Kennedy and DePaolo.
The cost may be increasing, but Town Councilman Chris Palmieri said there is good news that comes along with it. Changes to the project are expected to increase state reimbursements by nearly 4 percent and with additional funding available from the town’s involvement in the Project Choice program,.
But there is still one question left that the town may have to wait years to receive an answer on – will Connecticut follow through in providing the funding that Southington has been promised for the project?
John Barry on Monday expressed concerns that the state’s growing financial problems could adversely effect reimbursements due to the town.
“The state is out of money. They will be looking for ways to cut and I’m concerned it will include items like this,” Barry said during the council meeting this week. “There is a very real possibility based on the state budget crisis that Southington could see a reduced reimbursement rate.”
Both Kennedy and DePaolo Middle School renovation plans have been officially approved by the state, however, and Pocock said he believes that barring an emergency, the town should be able to expect what it has been promised.
By approving the projects – DePaolo was approved Wednesday, just a little more than a week after state officials put their stamp of approval on plans for the Kennedy renovation – Pocock said it sets in motion a long process that will lead to reimbursement of 56 percent once the project is complete.
Still, there’s always a possibility that something could change, he said.
“You never truly know what’s going to happen, but we are in a good position now,” Pocock said.
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