REGION 16 — The Board of Education last week directed the Region 16 School Building Committee to initiate the development of plans for a new district office on the Algonquin School site in Prospect.
The new office is the smallest part of a three-pronged school building project in the Region, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. The district now leases office space for $55,400 a year at 207 New Haven Road.
Voters approved bonding $47.5 million for the entire project in December 2011. The largest part of the project is a new elementary school in Prospect, which is currently under construction, to replace Algonquin and Community schools. The project also includes additions and renovations to Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls.
When the project went to referendum in 2011, the plan for the district office called for demolishing the two-story wing of Algonquin and renovating the remaining part for the office. It was estimated to cost nearly $2.4 million prior to the vote.
The plan was in a state of flux following the referendum. It changed in 2012 to demolishing the entire school, while saving the annex, and building a new office at the site due to higher than anticipated abatement costs. The board also opened the door to selling the property and accepting offers. No serious offers materialized.
At the time, the board also revisited the ideas of renovating Community School for the office or building it on the site of the new school.
The board held off on moving forward with finalizing plans for the office in order to see what the cost of the other two projects would be. The bids for new school project came in roughly $1.7 million less than estimated. Bids have not gone out yet for the Laurel Ledge project due to the local review process being dragged out.
The topic of the new office came up at the board’s March 12 meeting.
Board member Robert Hiscox said it makes sense to move forward with finalizing the plans for the new office, which is not to exceed 6,000 square feet. He said since the Laurel Ledge project has dragged on, he fears the new office will be delayed as well and cost more money.
Hiscox said by moving forward the town of Prospect can also move ahead with looking into buying Community School. The town has expressed interest in the building.
The board debated whether it needed to even make a motion since the plan at the time of the referendum called for the office to be built on the Algonquin School site on Coer Road.
Board member Sheryl Feducia said if the board wants to be true to the referendum the office will be built on the Algonquin site.
Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella said she is hesitant to move forward with committing to the final cost for the office without knowing how expensive the Laurel Ledge project will be. She said there are a lot of add alternates for the Laurel Ledge project that will come into play when deciding how much money to spend for the new office.
Cretella however said she could back moving ahead to develop the plans.