Board to forfeit reimbursement

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REGION 16 — In an effort to complete a three-part building project in time and within budget, the Region 16 Board of Education has voted to forgo state reimbursement on a new district office.

The school board, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, voted, 6-0, March 25 to forfeit an estimated $700,000 in state reimbursement for the district office project and completely demolish Algonquin School in Prospect. Board members Robert Hiscox and Christine Arnold were absent.

“I think it’s the only approach if we’re going to responsibly proceed with that project,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said.

A new district office is the final, and smallest, piece of the building project that includes the new Prospect Elementary School and renovations to Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls. When the project was approved at a referendum in 2011, the plan for the new office called for demolishing the wing of Algonquin School in Prospect closest to Route 69 and renovating the remaining part of the school for the office.

After the referendum, officials began pursuing a plan to demolish Algonquin School completely and build a new office on the site because it was cost-prohibitive to stick with the original plan. However, this option was pushed aside earlier this year after the state said the scope of the district office project couldn’t be changed without reapplying for reimbursement.

Reapplying for state reimbursement would cause significant delays in the project, which is on a timeline. If the entire project isn’t finished by the end of December, the board will have to pay penalties to Turner Construction Company and Fletcher Thompson Architects, the firms overseeing the project, under the terms of contracts with the two firms.

Ultimately, sticking with the original plan proved to be too costly. Officials estimated doing so would put the entire project about $875,000 over budget due mostly to the extensive abatement that would be needed to renovate the remaining part of Algonquin School for the office.

On March 11 Yamin presented the board with two options — a scaled down version of the original plan or forgo reimbursement and build a new office.

The scaled-down version of the office would ensure the district received state reimbursement. However, the board would be left with a building that would need extensive work down the road, including repairs to the roof, officials said.

Yamin said, last week, forfeiting state reimbursement on the new office is a hard concept to embrace, but that he can’t see the district moving forward with the original plan.

Board member David Rybinski agreed. He said a new building will be more cost-efficient for years to come compared to renovating part of Algonquin.

Yamin presented estimated figures last week for demolishing and abating Algonquin School and building a new 6,100-square-foot office for the roughly $2.3 million budgeted for the office part of the project.

While the board approved demolishing the school and forgoing reimbursement, officials are keeping their options open, for the time being, when it comes to the actual office.

Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella suggested the board explore whether there are any suitable buildings available to buy for a new office. She said the board can sell the Algonquin School site, after the building has been demolished. She said the board will never know if there’s anything available if it doesn’t check it out.