Uncertainties Loom Over Hawley School Project

The project is in limbo over a lack of available funds, wheelchair accessibility issues, aging boilers and questions about future school closings.

The Public Building and Site Commission is still holding out hope it can replace aging boilers in Hawley School in 2013, although prospects for that are looking bleak.

But commission Chairman Robert Mitchell warned this week that the entire future of could change quickly if someone made a complaint that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

As of now, the project because there isn’t enough money in the town’s Capital Improvement Program budget to finance the $8 million-to-$12.6 million project, even if it is broken up into three annual phases.

The commission is hoping the project’s engineering consultants can redesign the project so the most vulnerable boilers could be replaced next summer while school is not in session. Otherwise, the project would be .

The old steam boilers are located in the school wing built in 1947.

"If a boiler fails this winter, there is no way to replace it," Mitchell said.

And because the steam system in that part of the building is not compatible with the hot water system in the rest of the school, a failure of those boiler could force the building to close in the middle of the school year.

Also looming over the matter is the fact that the oldest part of the building, built in 1921, does not comply with ADA requirements for wheelchair accessibility.

Correcting that would increase the cost of the project from $8 million to $12.6 million, or force the town to stop using the building until it is corrected.

"My experience is the feds are going to come down and make them do it. The first complaint that comes from a grandparent that ‘I can’t visit my grandchild’s classroom,’" Mitchell said.

Also, at an Aug. 20 meeting, members of the Board of Education refused to consider the plan for the school renovations presented by the commission, preferring instead to pursue an alternative that the Public Building and Site Commission reportedly didn’t even know about, and that Mitchell said wouldn’t meet state building code requirements.

The plan the Board of Education preferred includes a ventilation system that doesn’t provide any fresh air returns, which is something the state would not allow, Mitchell said Tuesday at a meeting of the commission.

Mitchell noted that Hawley School is a town-owned building, so, he said, the Board of Education ultimately doesn't have the authority to determine how the renovations are designed.

But, Mitchell said, the commission doesn’t want to renovate the school only to have the school board close it a year later because of declining enrollment. Whether closing Hawley was a possibility was not something the school board addressed at the Aug. 20 meeting, Mitchell said.

Alex Tytler August 31, 2012 at 12:25 PM
ADA is PC gone wild. It's good that we are going to close this school, eventually. There will be considerable machination on the way.
Mom of two August 31, 2012 at 12:44 PM
How does it get to the point of "well if the boiler goes I guess we'll have to close the school down in the middle of the year"? Where is the planning? The school just got a new cafe a couple of years ago that it could have lived without, a brand new municiple building was just built in FFH's. What about taking care of the basics, like heat and clean air in the schools?
Po Murray August 31, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Board of Finance Minutes 11/14/05: "Mr. Gaston moved that the resolution entitled “Resolution Appropriating $5,400,000 For Renovations To The HVAC System At Hawley Elementary School And Authorizing The Issuance Of $5,400,000 Bonds Of The Town To Meet Said Appropriation And Pending The Issuance Thereof The Making Of Temporary Borrowings For Such Purpose”, a copy of which is attached hereto, is hereby adopted and recommended to the Legislative Council for consideration and action. Motion seconded and upon roll call vote motion failed: 5 NO (Giarratano, Kearney, Kortze, Waterbury, Portnoy) – 1 YES (Gaston) Mr. Kearney moved a resolution entitled “Resolution Appropriating $4,970,000 For Renovations To The HVAC System At Hawley Elementary School And Authorizing The Issuance Of $4,970,000 Bonds Of The Town To Meet Said Appropriation And Pending The Issuance Thereof The Making Of Temporary Borrowings For Such Purpose”, a copy of which is attached hereto, is hereby adopted and recommended to the Legislative Council for consideration and action. Motion seconded for discussion. Mr. Kearney advised that he is making this motion to reflect that the amount of bonding for this project be reduced by $440,000 by deducting the hard cost for air conditioning and by $50,000 to be funded by other means, i.e. Hawley Fund, operating budget, energy rebates. Upon roll call vote the motion carried: 4 YES (Waterbury, Gaston, Kearney, Giarratano) – 2 NO (Kortze, Portnoy)"
Po Murray August 31, 2012 at 01:33 PM
This project has been delayed for years and years & the costs have escalated. If this school shuts down, Newtown must plan on building another school in the near future. We have not reached max build out as of yet.
Po Murray August 31, 2012 at 01:34 PM
10/27/05: "Hawley HVAC System – Dr. Pitkoff advised that since the last meeting, the Board of Education received a memo from the Board of Finance requesting a prioritized list of capital improvement projects. They have filled in the “TBD”s with estimated figures for proposed projects. Mr. Doug Lajoie of CES was present to give a more detailed explanation of the Hawley HVAC system and the difference between the original projected figure and the bid results. The Head o’Meadow School HVAC project, done in 2003/2004, was estimated at $3.2 million with bids coming in at $3.3 million. He stated that they finished their report outlining possible costs for the Hawley HVAC system in 2003. They began design in 2004, and in April 2005, provided cost estimates of $3.9 million with a total project cost of $4.5 million. In August 2005, bids were received for $5.12 million with $5.45 million for total project. He distributed handouts showing “Opinion of Probable Construction Cost Estimate” (copy attached to original minutes), showing that eliminating Alternate #4 for the air conditioning components would deduct $440,000 from the total project budget of $5,456,810. Also distributed were copies of CES Opinion of Budget Cost Increases amounting to $2,136,810 (copy attached to original minutes)." http://www.newtown-ct.gov/​Public_Documents/​NewtownCT_FinanceMin/​2005%20Minutes/S00711BC0
Po Murray August 31, 2012 at 01:38 PM
The BOF should spend some time analyzing the cost that may be associated with a possible Moody's downgrade for spending more than the self-imposed debt cap of 10% vs. escalation for capital projects.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com August 31, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I agree they delay these actions until the cost are so large that we can't afford to fix it. A little long term planning would help. How is it that the town allows our assets to depreciate to this condition, It is really is a crime.Maybee we are spending all the money and grants up at Fairfield Hills.
Paul Alexander August 31, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Close the school. Doze all but the original building. Get some sort of Historical Designation for the building that avoids ADA annoyances. Repurpose the building. Get it all done in time for the building’s Centennial in 2021.
Obi-wan August 31, 2012 at 05:24 PM
We get it, you don't like the board of finance. How about instead of copy and pasting minutes from years and years ago, go to a meeting and offer a solution. This arm chair quarterbacking is getting old. And as the article mentions, the bof put a hold on projects including this one. Didn't the Ipn want to build a whole new high school a few years back??? Now the debt cap is an issue??? P.s. are you at least going to show up and vote on the charter changes you continue to harp about???
Paul Alexander August 31, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Po, Your comments make me wonder if you have any concern, or concept, of where the money will come from.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com August 31, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Obi-wan its easy to take shots at people when you hide your identity.
Po Murray August 31, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Obi-wan, You must not know the history. Just because I do not agree with the BOF, it does not mean I dislike them. This was my statement to the BOF at their meeting on 11/1/05 re: Hawley HVAC: "VOTER PARTICIPATION: Ms. Po Murray asked the Board to please approve the HVAC System. She does not want the town to pay more for delaying the project. She feels it is not fair to tell people that by bonding more than 10% (of total budget), it would compromise our Moody’s Rating. Moodys looks at things such as a stable financial base and a manageable debt burden. Our tax base is above $4 billion and expected to grow at a steady rate. Moodys estimates 36,000 as our built out population and we are now at only 26,000. Moodys will understand that we will need more money to pay for necessities due to growth. The needs are genuine. We should work with Moodys to properly fund budgets."
Po Murray August 31, 2012 at 08:56 PM
What would be the cost to repurpose the building? Please ask the Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers about this.
Po Murray August 31, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Paul, I am trying to save you some tax $$ just in case you move into town. Newtown has a history of not having a vision and not planning properly (i.e. two high school expansions costing the taxpayers about $60 million----New Milford built their huge HS for $50 million). We continue to be penny wise and pound foolish.
Po Murray August 31, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Did we not ask them to plan for the future years ago? They should have halted the construction of the new town hall on FFH and initiated strategic planning sessions to figure it all out. Here we are in a crisis mode AGAIN! I hope the BOE will begin their discussion on a contingency plan for emergency school closure. Perhaps we should have kept the HS portables just in case. We sold them for very little money.
Milfseeker August 31, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Please! 1. Boilers can be inspected, repaired, and maintained. I have worked on steam boilers that were over 80 years old many times and have performed plenty of repairs that were state inspected afterwards with NO failures what so ever. 2 Emergency boiler rental is a huge business. Many times during repairs or upgrades we have moved in mobile units to keep buildings running with NO adverse effects.These can be moved on site within 24 hours all year round. If we are looking to close school buildings why would we consider making ANY repairs at Hawley? I do wish someone would look at these issues more closely and not just let some consultant run wild while spending our hard earned money>
Mr D. August 31, 2012 at 11:14 PM
"hiding one's identity" on the Internet is just common sense. Ever heard of identity theft?
Alex Tytler September 01, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Milfseeker, you speak the truth, and none of the advocates want any part of truth.
katydid September 01, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I believe we paid around $900,000 for portables that most entities only rent. How much DID we get for them?
Obi-wan September 01, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Yoda, the force is strong with this one.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com September 05, 2012 at 12:59 PM
According to Pat Llodra the BOE is not addressing this in a timely manner. The facility which houses the students seems to me to be something that is important. I'm not sure whose responsibility it is to maintain town building, I think the town owns the building, is that correct? So I am not sure why the blame finger is being pointed at the BOE. The real question is why does the town wait so long to do needed work on town owned buildings, and when they do it cost many times what it would have cost to fix in a timely manner. "The first selectman said that the town cannot wait for the school board to decide whether a large-scale HVAC renovation at the school is either appropriate or desired because the replacement of the central heating plant is critical. And Mrs Llodra said the window to complete the process leading up to planning that work next summer is closing fast."
Paul Alexander September 05, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Hawley is a Frankenstein facility...the result of years of short term band aids applied by short term thinking politicians. Bolting another $12 MILLION DOLLAR body part onto this facility by short term thinking politicians who just want to appease the current group of Hawley parents whose kids will be out of Hawley in no more than five years is BAD decision making. Kill the monster. Preserve the original building.
Mom of two September 05, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Well if they are going to kill it they should have done it well before school started. So what, we just have to cross our fingers that the boiler makes it through the winter otherwise they will just displace 300 + kids all over town? Great thinking!
Paul Alexander September 06, 2012 at 04:30 PM
"Thinking" was pretty much AWOL if you objectively evaluate the decision making on Hawley over the past 20 or 30 years. "Reacting" is a more appropriate term. The kids will be fine if the boilers croak mid winter. Lots of these available to rent. http://www.econtrol.com/Rentals.htm If the “Deciders” can justify the cost of the disposable NHS portables, then emergency portable boilers are a no brainer. Not perpetuating the "reactionary" decision making that has led to this sad state is the best idea. NOT spending $12 MILLION is an even BETTER idea.
yoda September 20, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Bruce it's much easier taken shots at the IPN, wrong you are about Obi=wan! Mr d, I wonder what the d stands for ??? HMMMMMMMMMMM?


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