Selectmen Launch Assessment of Town's Municipal Space Needs

The first step will be to meet with the Board of Education and discuss which schools might be closed.

The Newtown Board of Selectmen has decided to begin an assessment of the town’s municipal space needs, in order to lay out a road map for the next decade.

First Selectman Patricial Llodra said the last municipal space needs assessment was done in 1999, so it’s about time to do a new one.

She said the assessment would also plan for three significant projects coming up in the future: the construction of a community center, a police station and a senior center.

Another consideration is whether the Board of Education might close another school because of declining pupil enrollment.

James Gaston and William Rodgers, the two other selectmen in attendance at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting Monday evening, joined Llodra to unanimously authorize her to ask the school board to meet with the selectmen for a discussion about future school closings.

Llodra said the Board of Education has identified as the one it would most likely close because of declining enrollment.

However, the rising expense for renovations needed for , including about $6 million to bring the building, built in 1921, into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and another $6 million for a new HVAC system and boilers, raise the possibility that that school might also be targeted to close.

Rodgers said the Board of Education had listed Reed as its first choice to close because it would be the easiest to reopen if pupil enrollment were to increase. That might not be so easy if the closed school were filled with town programs.

The needs assessment also has implications for the town’s CIP (Capital Improvement Program), which is currently under review because its projected cost would exceed its budget limit.

The town’s budget planning set the CIP cost at no higher than 9 percent. Finance Director Robert Tait told the Board of Finance recently that capital improvement projects already approved would push the cost over 10 percent of the budget, and that would get even worse if the town went ahead with the Hawley School project.

So , except for repairs to a number of bridges and construction of a new firehouse, until municipal needs are reviewed.

Llodra said the projects that would be immediately affected are for , which have been put on hold.

"Those are projects that have been vetted. We just don’t have the resources," Llodra said.

Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com August 08, 2012 at 12:58 PM
This is a really great effort and sorely needed in Newtown. Putting projects on hold that effect the utilization of space also makes sense until the complete study is completed. - One thing that does not make sense to me however is the rush to sign a solar agreement for a 15 year commitment for the Middle school, commitment which will save perhaps $4000-6000 a year. This should also be put on hold so it does not interfere with the conclusions of the study, just as Pat Llodra asked the BOE last year to hold off on FTK until the school space need was assessed. Newtown should not be making a 15 year commitment, that ties up the Middle School, until the space study is concluded and we are certain of enrollment numbers.
Karen C. Pierce August 08, 2012 at 03:31 PM
"Rodgers said the Board of Education had listed Reed as its first choice to close because it would be the easiest to reopen if pupil enrollment were to increase. That might not be so easy if the closed school were filled with town programs." My concern as a parent and constituent is not which building is easiest to reopen, but which school provides the most appropriate and supportive learning environment for students. Reed was built and designed to be a school for the 21st Century.
yoda August 08, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Karen, All you need is an IPAD and a desk and you in the 21st century.
Think First August 08, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Yoda, I don't agree. Children need an environment that is conducive to learning, not just technology. Reed is a beautiful building. I have heard many parents rave about the school after having children attend. It is a school Newtown can be proud of. Have you been in the Middle School lately? The musty smell is overwhelming. What a relief when the new roof went on and the town stopped the water damage to the building. I was in the building when the maintenance crew rigged up jugs and buckets with piping from the ceiling to catch the rain water. Frankly, that building is an embarrassment to a town such as Newtown. I will question the intelligence of our town government if a decision is made to close or repurpose Reed in favor of keeping older, deteriorating school buildings open. Shame on Newtown for considering a step back like that!
yoda August 08, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Donna, So why it is that many children are still academically behind, after leaving Reed, even with all the horns and whistles kids are still behind, why is that ?
Po Murray August 08, 2012 at 05:40 PM
It is a shame that an integrated strategic long term plan was never established for the town. We have asked over and over again for years and years to no avail. We have a school strategic plan without money to fund the goals, we have a committee that assessed which school builidings should be closed due to enrollment and now a building assessment study on the town side. We continue on a path without an integrated approach. Newtown continues to make decisions reactively. Before the 2nd HS expansion, many of us asked for the town hall project to be halted and serciously consider building a new HS on FFH (we would have received 1/3rd state reimbursement for the project). We could have moved the middle school students to the current HS which would have provided the flexibility needed to deal with enrollment changes (up or down) AND the middle school would have had sufficient space for a town hall, senior center (cafeteria and classrooms), community center (gyms, classroom space, fields) etc... It is ridiculous that Reed Intermediate School is being considered for closure or for municipal use. It is one of the best school buildings in Newtown. The other schools (except for some areas in the HS) are old and require many updates. The 5-year CIP plan has and will continue to be inadequate and the residents will continue to pay more and more due to lack of planning (two HS expansions and a town hall that cannot accommodate all town departments etc).
Karen C. Pierce August 08, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Yoda, that statement is not valid. Check the current CMT results.
Think First August 08, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Yoda, My children are not academically behind, so I cannot answer to that. Secondly, a decent school building, and environment, is only PART of the education equation. There are MANY reasons why a child may fall behind academically, including (but certainly not limited to) parents that don't care, a teacher that doesn't care, AND children that have way too many after school activities and as a result are too tired to excel in school or get their homework/studying done. The list goes on. I am not an educator, so I cannot answer to that. I do know as a human being that if I had to sit in a musty smelling, hot, humid old building all school year long, my attention span and energy level would diminish as would the energy of everyone working there! God bless those teachers for putting up with that! Try sitting in a class room on the top floor of the Middle School building on a hot September or June day. Lastly, I don't know what you mean by "horns and whistles". Reed is a nice, modern, school building, with the usual school trappings: desks, books, computers, ... Have you been in the building? I must have missed the "horns and whistles" section of the building.
Daniel Patti August 08, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Here is the link to the enrollment projections for the decade http://newtownbee.com/PDFFiles/Board%20of%20Education/BOE%20Demographic%20Report.pdf
Alex Tytler August 08, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Start closing schools, and Hawley is first on the list.
Fran August 08, 2012 at 11:53 PM
My daughter just left Hawley & was on the top floor for 4th grade. Let me tell you, it was like an inferno the last month or more of school. I don't know how they, as well as the teachers, we're able to concentrate on anything! After 4 yrs @ Hawley (love the teachers/staff & Jo-Ann Peters but not the physical school) everyone is looking forward to going to Reed. I've spoken to others who absolutely loved the experience but also say that it's a cruel joke to then have to go to the middle school. My daughter is working beyond her grade level. Just saying! :)
Mary Ann Jacob August 09, 2012 at 12:45 AM
What is the downside? The roof will not change regardless of use.
Les August 09, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Close and sell Hawley as it is a money pit with all the work it needs in repairs and to bring it up to code. It would make a nice cono complex of one bedroom units that would bring in some additional tax revenue.
yoda August 09, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Donna, believe me when I tell you I know for a fact kids that are behind, going into the Middle school, as for those CMTs those are a joke, let’s go into the middle school and see how much of that information those children have retained? All that information was jammed down there from throats months prior to CMTs. Have I been in that building? I make it my job to do research on any building my children go into, I assure you I'm a parent who cares about my children’s education, just wish some educators felt the same!!! " God bless those teachers for putting up with that” They should thank GOD they have a job, in this economy!!!
Russ August 09, 2012 at 01:18 AM
The logic of throwing $10M into Hawley to keep it open and then closing the brand new gorgeous Middle School escapes me. People, you're closing the schools to save money. If you need Hawley again, you put the money into it down the line.
Alex Tytler August 09, 2012 at 11:18 AM
And according to the enrollment projections we can close it and not worry about reopening it. But watch what they do.
Paul Alexander August 09, 2012 at 11:41 AM
About time. Start running the town like a business. Assess needs and capacity. Adjust capacity. Wash, rinse, repeat periodically. This is an overdue initiative AS LONG AS the decisions are made from the perspective of WHAT’S BEST FOR THE TAXPAYERS, not what’s best for a particular special interest or what’s best for the loudest and whiniest group of parents. Oh, and I spent 4th grade on the 4th floor of Hawley and I didn’t melt.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com August 09, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Mary Ann the down side appears to be that the Middle school could not be closed because we have a 15 year commitment to pay for all the electricity which the Solar Panels can produce. Since we have a moratorium on capital projects for a year, seems like we should also hold off on this type of Capital lease. By the way how will the lease be treated on our books now that the accounting regulations have changed concerning operating and capital leases?
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com August 09, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Paul, still seems like they are putting the cart before the horse. Once they sign a 15 year leasse for the panels we are stuck paying for them. lets do the study first and them plan for each meeting.
Paul Alexander August 09, 2012 at 04:54 PM
I wasn’t addressing solar panels but rather the generally accepted business practice of shuttering excess capacity. But since you raised the issue...The ROI on solar here in all-year sunny Florida is horrible. Connecticut??? Solar in Newtown seems more like a feel good initiative rather than a smart business decision.
Fred vili August 09, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I cannot believe that people are still talking about a new police station. It is a wish list item that would be a waste of money. We should be reducing the police budget not increasing. I am saddened that it is so easy to take money from the schools but to cut the town side is impossible.
Paul Alexander August 09, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I agree. For some reason taxpayer funded organizations are prone to building Taj Mahals for themselves. Of course, the PD will play the "Public Safety" card to get their way.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com August 09, 2012 at 08:12 PM
The hearing and town meeting on the Middle school Solar panels and the lease has been postponed.
Big Family August 09, 2012 at 09:30 PM
No money should be spent on the Hawley school. Close it and find a new revenue generating use for it. Keep Reed open and redefine its use if needed. If the police Dept. gets a dime for any kind of construction it should come out of the town benefits fund. What is with these people!


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