New office brings project to a close

Region 16 Board of Education Chair Sheryl Feducia and Vice Chair Robert Hiscox, center, cut a ribbon surrounded by local officials during a ceremony June 18 at the district’s new office in Prospect to officially open the office. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Region 16 Board of Education Chair Sheryl Feducia and Vice Chair Robert Hiscox, center, cut a ribbon surrounded by local officials during a ceremony June 18 at the district’s new office in Prospect to officially open the office. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

PROSPECT — Region 16 school officials symbolically put to bed a three-part school building project Saturday morning with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new district office.

“For me this is very special, it’s the end of our three-phase building project. It brings us to a point of closure for us with the construction work,” said Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin during the brief and informal ceremony.

The new office for the region, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, is the last and smallest piece of a three-part building project that included the new Prospect Elementary School and renovations to Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls.

The one-floor office sits where the former Algonquin School stood at 30 Coer Road. Algonquin School, with the exception of the annex, was demolished to make way for the new 6,600-square-foot office. The annex will be used for storage and an office for maintenance staff.

The district previously rented office space for the administration on New Haven Road.  The new office offers a few amenities the previous office didn’t, including a 700-square-foot meeting space that can be used for Board of Education meetings, professional development and training seminars. Yamin added the room will also be available for town and community groups to use.

With the building project complete, Yamin said, the district can now focus all its attention on education. A sentiment echoed by Board of Education Chair Sheryl Feducia.

“We all want a complete district where the buildings are all in place so now the focus is education,” Feducia said. “We’ve always done the education piece of it but now we can truly, fully focus on the kids, the staff and what we have to do to move the region forward in their academics.”

The new office cost about $3.78 million, according to figures provided by Yamin. That figure doesn’t include $150,000, which came from budget surplus transferred to the board’s non-recurring capital account, used to repave the parking lot and $40,000 for repairs to the annex. The repairs to the annex, which started this week, include new siding for the building to match the new office.

The $3.78 million price tag for the office is roughly $1.4 million more than what was budgeted for it when the project was approved at a referendum. The higher cost is due to a change in plans and unexpected expenses.

When voters approved bonding up to $47.5 million for the project in December 2011, the plan for the new office called for demolishing the two-story wing of Algonquin School and renovating the remaining part for the office. However, sticking with the original plan would have put the entire project significantly over budget due mostly to the extensive abatement that would be needed.

Last year, the school board voted to demolish the whole school and build a new office. Additional PCBs and asbestos, which weren’t anticipated, were found during the demolition of Algonquin School that cost about $1.2 million to remediate.

Changing the scope of the project so drastically from what was approved at the referendum also meant the board forfeited reimbursement from the state for the district office project. At the time of the vote, it was estimated that the board forfeited roughly $700,000 in reimbursement.