‘Real work’ to start on Region 16 school project

A computer drawing shows a design for the new elementary school in Prospect. -CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — Weeks after voters in Prospect and Beacon Falls approved a school building project for Region 16 the “real work” is set to begin.

The Board of Education gave the go-ahead for Fletcher Thompson, an architectural firm, and Turner Construction, a construction management firm, to proceed with phase II of the project at its meeting Jan. 11.

“Now the real work begins,” Joseph Costa, a principal with Fletcher Thompson, told the board.

Fletcher Thompson and Turner Construction worked on the estimated $46.7 million, three-part project throughout its initial phase leading up to the December referendum. The firms will continue to work hand-in-hand with the school building committee, which meets every two weeks, on the project.

The board approved a $2.3 million contract with Fletcher Thompson last week, along with a $45,000 allowance for the company to cover miscellaneous costs such as travel and mailings. As of the meeting, the contract with Turner Construction had not been finalized, but the company was given permission to start its work.

“We don’t anticipate any problems, and we feel the contract will be finalized shortly,” attorney Warren “Pete” Hess said.

The costs of the contracts will come out of the money approved for the project.

The project entails building a new elementary school in Prospect at 75 New Haven Road, a 49-acre parcel known as the Talmadge Hill Road property, to replace Community and Algonquin schools, major renovations to Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls, and converting Algonquin School in Prospect into the new district office. The project was approved at a Dec. 20 referendum, 1,239 to 1,084.

Costa explained that phase II of the project includes intensive design work, securing the necessary permits from the state and towns for the work ahead, along with more analysis of the site for the new school, including a traffic study.

“Now is the time for us to really roll up our sleeves,” Costa said.

The firm will also work on filing the necessary paperwork, by June 30, with the state for reimbursement. School officials anticipate to be reimbursed 68 percent of eligible costs of the project by the state.

Along with working to get the highest reimbursement rate on the three parts of the project, Costa said the firm will work on securing reimbursement from the state on the money spent to buy the Talmadge Hill Property. In October 2008, voters approved buying the land for $1.59 million.

Phase II will lead up to actual construction of the new school and renovations at Laurel Ledge, which are expected to begin in the spring of 2013. Work on the district office project is slated start in July of 2014.

As the project moves forward, members of the school board emphasized the importance of keeping the public informed through presentations at various stages of the project. Costa told the board there will be periodic public presentations.

Board chair Priscilla Cretella said the board wants an open discussion so everyone understands what is happening as the project unfolds.

“The whole thing here is communication,” she said.