The Newtown Board of Finance balked Monday at moving ahead with long-planned improvements to Hawley School in the face of this year’s tight budget constraints.
Board Chairman John W. Kortze noted that the improvements to the Hawley School HVAC system has been on the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) list for a decade, just prior to the start of a presentation by architect Charles W. Boos, of Kaestle Boos, and engineer Brian D. Wetzel, of Consulting Engineering Services.
The consultants described the three-phase repair project that would replace the air conditioning, heating boilers and ventilation systems at the school, at a cost estimated at $8 million.
, with additions constructed in 1947 and 1997. Each of the three parts of the school still has its own boiler and ventilation system, which Boos said makes maintenance more expensive and complicated.
Boos said the three phase project would replace those systems with a single system for the whole school using new, high efficiency equipment that would improve performance and reduce costs.
"This has been hanging out there for a long time," Kortze said in his introduction.
Boos said this is an opportunity to bring the bring the 1921 portion of the school into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)., which the town would probably have to do eventually. "It is not code compliant, and it is in violation," Boos said, news that stunned Board of Finance members.
Boos and Wetzel recommended approval of the higher-cost renovations to become ADA compliant. While the project would cost $12 million, it would then eligible for state school construction reimbursement, reducing the town’s share to $10 million.
The more expensive option also includes removing asbestos and possibly other hazardous materials.
But this is a difficult year for approving a new, expensive, improvement project, First Selectman Patricia Llodra pointed out. She reminded the BOF that the town is facing its fifth budget referendum this year, and even if it passes that would result in a very tight 2012-13 budget.
The BOF thought approving the additional monies would be difficult.
When the Board of Finance learned that the design consultants had not yet presented the project to the Board of Education, they delayed voting on the item on their agenda: a proposed appropriation of $280,000 for architectural and engineering work to prepare the plans so the project could go out to bid.
Boos said it didn’t have to be approved that night, but he warned against delaying too long. If the project doesn’t go out to bid by January, the contractor won’t be able to start early enough to complete Phase 1, work on the 1947 section of the building, during the summer of 2013.