[wpaudio url=”http://www.mycitizensnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/roof-referendum.mp3″ text=”Middle School Gets its Roof”]
PROSPECT — On yet another day when merciless rain seeped through Long River Middle School’s porous roof, the building got a reprieve that didn’t involve drip-catching buckets. Region 16 voters approved a $1.9 million replacement project, 692-157, at a referendum Tuesday.
“It’s just time,” Beacon Falls Selectman Mike Krenesky said, moments after he cast a ballot in favor of the project. “I don’t think there’s enough buckets left in the state of Connecticut, with all this rain we’re having, for everybody, let along the school system. … It’s a project that has to be done.”
Such was the sentiment at both polling locations, Laurel Ledge School in Beacon Falls and the Prospect Fire House. In Beacon Falls, the initiative passed, 280-73, and in Prospect, the margin was 415-84.
“It’s about time,” said Al Fried, 79, a Prospect resident who said he’s lived on Chandler Drive, behind Long River Middle School, since 1965. “The longer they wait, the worse it’ll get.”
Fried added he remembers original construction of Long River, in 1971, and that his children attended the school. He also empathized with educators who deal frequently with leaks; Fried said he had spent Tuesday morning using a vacuum cleaner to suck up water that had invaded his basement.
While polling was still underway, the mood at Long River was one of nervous anticipation.
“We need [a new roof] so badly,” said Lynn Lawson, a main office secretary, on her way to vote during her lunch break.
Assistant Principal Kristin Bernier strode through the school’s hallways, pointing out ceiling tiles stained by water or missing altogether; in the latter cases, pipes and wires exposed themselves overhead.
Five-gallon buckets were the most common liquid receptacles, though some teachers used their own desks’ trash bins. In one classroom, a blue tarpaulin covered a computer rendered useless by rainwater.
“We try our best to not let it affect instruction,” Bernier said. “But it can be hard when the kids are dodging buckets.”
The two polling places were practically deserted until the final few hours. At 12:30 p.m., almost halfway through the voting window, only about 100 people had turned out in Prospect.
“We figured it would be slow because of the rain,” said Janice Mallon, the moderator at the Prospect Fire House.
An hour earlier, at Laurel Ledge, the tally was just 72.
“I think the weather’s a big factor,” echoed Beacon Falls moderator Millie Kevit. “… This is a big issue. I think it’s a big issue. There’s a lot of money involved.”
The 849-person turnout constituted just 8.6 percent of registered voters in the district.
Tuesday’s result means the school district can spend as much as $1.9 million to replace 59,736 square feet of roof, roughly two-thirds of the school’s covering. The other third was part of a 1995 addition and is still sound.
Meriden-based BL Companies, which performed preliminary design work and will serve as project supervisor, has recommended a three-ply modified bituminous roofing material, which it describes as an asphalt-polymer blend, guaranteed by the manufacturer to last 30 years.
The state will pay for 70.71 percent of the project’s cost, which, as estimated, will leave the district to pay $573,000. Prospect would be responsible for $347,198 and Beacon Falls for $225,762.
Region 16’s next step is to collect contractors’ bids to perform the work. Both Superintendent of Schools Jim Agostine and Interim Business Manager Hugh Potter have expressed optimism that the winning bid will be considerably less than the $1.9 million figure approved Tuesday.
“We’re going to be able to get some low bids and really good roofing contractors that are experts in this built-up roofing process,” Potter told Citizen’s News last month. “I think we’re going to be able to get very, very competitive numbers.”
The school board plans to spread the cost over a four-year bond and hopes to secure a low interest rate of about 1 percent.
Bernier said school officials promoted the project among parents, detailing the need for a new roof during incoming students’ orientation. On referendum day, even voters who no longer send their children to local schools backed the plan.
“Our kids are all grown, but we’ve still got to support the school system,” said Joe Dowdell, 51, a Beacon Falls resident. “We have four kids. They all went through the system. Somebody paid then, so we have to pay now. It comes down to that.”