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.

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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