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Revisions of Work Phases Might Make Hawley School Project Feasible

Engineering consultants cut Phase 1 costs by almost $2 million, which could mean it could start construction in summer 2013.

Revisions in the phasing of the work might allow the Hawley School project go forward after all.

The revisions sharply reduced the cost of Phase 1 of the project, which entails replacing the ailing boilers in the portion of the school built in 1947, by shifting some of the work to Phase 2 the following year.

And for bookkeeping purposes, a Board of Education subcommittee will request shifting Phase 1 from this year to the 2013-14 budget year of the town’s capital improvement program (CIP) budget, and Phase 2 to the following year.

The work would actually be done during the summers of 2013 and 2014 as was previously planned, however.

That means the old steam boilers, which are more than 60 years old, can be replaced at the earliest possible opportunity with new, gas-fired hot-water boilers.

It is too late to replace the old boilers for this school year. Local officials say if the boilers break down during this coming winter, it might not be possible to repair them.

The project was in jeopardy because Phase 1, costing almost $4.2 million, overspent the funding available in the 2012-13 CIP budget.

Robert Mitchell, chairman of the Public Building and Site Commission, presented the revised project costs to the school board’s CIP subcommittee on Wednesday. The revisions cut the cost of Phase 1 to $2.37 million.

The project still needs to be approved by the Board of Finance. However, if approved it eliminates the possibility that Phase 1 would be delayed until the summer of 2014, leaving the school vulnerable to a boiler breakdown for an additional winter.

Members of the subcommittee and School Supt. Janet Robinson also rescheduled several other Board of Education capital projects.

Improvements for the Newtown High School auditorium, improvements for the middle school and window replacements for elementary schools will all be delayed from one to two years.

Robinson said she wished the auditorium work could go ahead as previously planned, because with seating for over 1,100, it is the only large auditorium in Newtown.

"I think it’s a shame it’s been put off for so long," she said.

The subcommittee also discussed Hawley School Phase 3, which Mitchell said could be delayed until 2015 if necessary.

That work will install air conditioning in the oldest part of the school, built in 1921. Robinson said classrooms in that part of the school can’t open their windows in warm weather without the noise of road traffic creating an educational disruption.

That part of the building is not compliant with the handicapped accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), although the school is "grandfathered" for regulatory purposes. If a child with a physical impairment is assigned there, the school district can reassign him or her to another school rather than spend the $6.8 million to bring the school into ADA compliance.

But Mitchell noted if a third party, such as a parent or grandparent, complains, the school and the town might be forced to spend the money.

Ben September 10, 2012 at 10:44 PM
The world economy is on the brink of collapsing and Newtown wants to keep pouring money into an ancient school and close a perfectly good one. What is wrong with Newtown?

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