Board returns to original office plan

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The Region 16 Board of Education has awarded a contract to demolish and abate the wing of Algonquin School closest to Route 69. The rest of the school will be renovated into a new district office. –LUKE MARSHALL
The Region 16 Board of Education has awarded a contract to demolish and abate the wing of Algonquin School closest to Route 69. The rest of the school will be renovated into a new district office. –LUKE MARSHALL

REGION 16 — The plan for a new Region 16 district office has come full circle.

The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, last week awarded a $552,150 contract to demolish and abate wing “B” of Algonquin School in Prospect to Standard Demolition Services.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said the bid was the lowest of seven submitted for the work. The second lowest bid was $725,000, he said.

Wing “B” is the part of the school closest to Route 69. The remaining part of the school will be renovated for a new district office.

A new district office is the smallest part of a three-phase school building project. The district currently leases office space at 207 New Haven Road.

The building project also includes the new Prospect Elementary School, which will replace Algonquin and Community schools in Prospect in the fall, and renovations to Laurel Ledge School in Beacon Falls.

Awarding the contract to partially demolish and abate Algonquin School marked a return to the original plan for the new district office that was voted on at a referendum in December 2011.

After the referendum, school officials explored different options for the office and settled on moving forward with demolishing Algonquin School entirely, with the exception of the annex, and building a new office on the site. However, those plans hit a snag.

Yamin explained when officials approached the state about changing the plans for the new office the request was denied because it changed the entire score of the project that was already approved. If officials wanted to move forward with demolishing the whole school and a building a new office, he said, they would have to submit all new plans and reapply for state reimbursement. Doing so, he said, would cause a significant delay in the project and end up costing more money.

Stan Pilat, a member of the Prospect Town Council and chair of the school building committee, addressed the board last week during public comment.

Pilat said he still wishes the district could go forward with tearing down the whole school, but that circumstances and finances have forced the hand of officials.

“We’ll do the best with it and it’ll be fine,” he said. “But, I wish it could have gone a different way.”

Members of the board emphasized that going ahead with the partial demolition and renovation of Algonquin School for the new office is what was voted on at the referendum.

“The board is following the guidelines of what was voted on,” Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella.

The demolition is slated to begin three weeks after school ends this year, Yamin said.

The district still needs to go out to bid on the work to renovate the remaining part of the school for the office. As of last week, there was roughly $2.3 million, not counting contingency funds, in the project’s overall budget for the new office, Yamin said.

Voters approved bonding up to $47.5 million for the project. The project’s budget is roughly $46.7 million, the remaining funds will cover the short-term interest and bond issuance cost.