Boards get look at long-term facilities plan

Board of Finance Chairwoman Diane Scinto, center, answers a question about the long-term school facility plan while Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi, left, and Mayor Robert Mezzo look on Tuesday at City Hill Middle School. –LUKE MARSHALL

Board of Finance Chairwoman Diane Scinto, center, answers a question about the long-term school facility plan while Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi, left, and Mayor Robert Mezzo look on Tuesday at City Hill Middle School. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck officials got their first look Tuesday night at a long-term plan that proposes an overhaul of school facilities in the borough and moving Town Hall.

Warren “Pete” Hess, chairman the long-term school facility planning committee, gave the Tri-Boards of Finance, Education and Mayor and Burgesses a presentation on the plan at City Hill Middle School. 

The plan is broken up into three phases that extend to 2022.

The first phase of the project, the $81 million renovations of Naugatuck High School, is currently underway. The work began in April 2013 and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2015.

The plan also includes building an approximately $86 million school for grades five to eight at the current Cross Street Intermediate School site; renovating City Hill Middle School to new and converting it into an elementary school; tearing down the current Town Hall to make way for private development; converting Hillside Intermediate School and Salem Elementary School into a municipal government complex to replace Town Hall.

Western School, Central Avenue School and Andrew Avenue School are also slated to be taken offline and repurposed.

Hess told the tri-boards that while the plan is to spread construction out over the next 20 years, the work is meant to last for a century.

“This is just a huge, incredibly important, incredibly valuable project to the Board of Education, to the students and to the town,” Board of Education Chairman David Heller said.

Board of Finance member Anthony Campbell said he’s in favor of moving forward with the plan. However, he was worried how the borough is going to pay for all the projects.

The remainder of the planned could cost about $210 million. Each part of the project would have to be approved by voters at a referendum.

Campbell pointed out that residents voted in favor of the high school renovations because of the economic climate and the deals the town was receiving.

“The high school, I thought, was kind of like the perfect storm. You had a good reimbursement rate, you had a good bond rate, and you had a situation where private sector construction was weak,” Campbell said. “We weren’t at the top of the market so we were getting a better price. Will we get that perfect storm for phase two?”

Hess said the plan is contingent upon first getting public support for building a school for grades five to eight at the Cross Street Intermediate School site.

Board of Finance member Daniel Sheridan requested officials try and figure out what the impact would be of each project so that taxpayers would know exactly how they will be affected.

Mayor Robert Mezzo said the current numbers were based on estimates from 2011, and would not suffice in getting real costs for the projects. However, he assured Sheridan that the borough would know the cost going into each referendum for the various projects.

Mezzo said the point of the committee is to help the borough take a long-term proactive approach to the school system.

“We’ve been working for over two years on this plan and a lot of thought has gone into it,” Mezzo said.

No final decisions on how to proceed were made Tuesday night.

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