Bid approved for Barlow stadium project; hearing set

The Region 9 Board of Education approved a bid of up to $3,272,255 from Clark Companies for the proposed stadium field improvement project at Joel Barlow High School, subject to approval at an upcoming referendum. A district meeting is set to discuss the proposal next Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the high school at 7 p.m.

Clark Companies was the “lowest responsible bidder” of six for the project. Bids were opened on Aug. 6. The bids were announced at a special Fields and Facilities meeting on Aug. 13. Immediately following the meeting, the Financial Advisory Committee and Region 9 Board of Education met jointly.

Clark Companies bid a base project cost of $2,176,000, but there are other additions and alternates the board adopted.

The base project includes new bleachers, new field lighting, new fencing and a new turf field. These improvements would be made to the already existing field stadium area at Joel Barlow High School.

Additional costs to the project include road repairs that could reach $220,000; soil and material testing at $13,500; project management cost to Gale Associates at $39,255; additional site presence from Gale required by zoning at $28,900; and a 10% contingency of $239,600. Short-term notes to cover financing costs are estimated at $30,500. This leaves a total cost for the base project at $2,747,755.

However, the board approved the base project with alternates, which brings the total to $3,272,255.

The alternates include the addition of ornamental improvements, like trees, to the entrance of the athletic area at $46,000; a paved parking lot, lighting and drainage at $389,000; a turf upgrade at $38,000; possible additional permitting fees at $4,200; and a 10% contingency of $286,900.

Bill Seymour of Gale Associates was hired last October to design and engineer the project for the school board.

He said that Clark Companies fought for the lowest price in the bid but they also included the lowest cost for the turf upgrade.

“I’ve worked with them on at least a dozen projects,” said Mr. Seymour. “They’re arguably the best.”

Clark Companies is known for doing Division I and Division II college and university fields, in addition to private work, said Mr. Seymour. He also said for a public high school project, the bid Clark Companies gave is “precedently low.”

The turf upgrade cost of $38,000 is for a product called Turf Revolution. Mr. Seymour said this is the highest quality of turf that is on the market. Most fields have been using Pro-series XM6, which has been seen to last eight to nine years on other turf fields, he said.

Mike Santangeli, Barlow’s athletic director, said he’d like to see other fields in the area that have used Turf Revolution to see the difference between that and the Pro-series XM6.

Besides the turf upgrade, the board members had a concern with the parking lot improvements.

The parking plan approved by the Zoning Commission requires the board to follow the town’s parking lot ordinance, said Chris Hocker, Fields and Facilities chair, as well as Financial Advisory Committee chair and Region 9 member from Redding.

The parking plan includes paving, designated handicap spaces, painted lines, parking islands and 12-foot-tall light posts and drainage, said Mr. Seymour.

In order to change any of the parking plans, the board would have to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals and request to be excused from either both the 12-foot-tall light posts so higher lights can be installed and eliminate the parking islands, or they could just eliminate the parking islands, said Mr. Hocker.

Cathy Gombos, board chair from Easton, said she is in favor of taller parking lot lights because Mr. Seymour said that higher lights give more light, less spillage outside of the parking lot and they would need fewer light posts. But, Ms. Gombos is not in favor of eliminating the parking islands. She said she didn’t want the parking lot to look “macadamed.”

“It should be functional and beautiful,” she said.

Susanne Krivit, financial advisory member, said she has been in favor of doing the parking lot upgrade and having a welcoming entrance.

“Refurbishing and redoing the stadium is like redoing a house — you’re not going to redo the whole thing and then not the front door and windows and entry way,” said Ms. Krivit.

She said that having a new stadium brings a new meaning and feeling to the school community, so the board should go to the Zoning Board of Appeals to see if they can try and get taller light posts. She thinks, she said, the appeals board would treat a project at the high school differently than a project in a resident’s backyard.

Mr. Hocker said he agreed the board should approach the Zoning Board of Appeals and the board “is not going to be worse off if they say no.”

Mr. Seymour said that if the parking lot plans change to include taller lights and no islands, it would actually save about $50,000 to $60,000.

Matt Spoerndle, Region 9’s financial adviser, was at the meeting to discuss the board’s outstanding debt.

He said the board would go with short-term borrowing of nine months for the field project and in the spring when a proposed roof replacement and restoration project needs to be done, the board would take out another short-term note. Then in spring 2015, the board would go to a 20-year bond totaling about $5 million in a “base case scenario.”

“This in no way would jeopardize your credit rating,” said Mr. Spoerndle.

Because interest rates are constantly changing, he said, it would be hard to predict what an actual cost could be by spring 2015.

Frank DeSalvo, financial advisory committee member, asked what the life span of the field and stadium project would be if there is a 20-year bond.

The stadium structure will last much longer than 20 years, said Mr. Seymour, adding the turf “carpet” itself should need replacing after eight to 10 years at a lower cost than initial installation.

Mr. Santangeli said the current stadium structure was built in 1981.

The Region 9 board unanimously approved the Clark Companies’ bid of up to $3,272,255, subject to funding as the result of a referendum.

Before the referendum can be held, a district hearing will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 20. The board will also set the date for the referendum. By law, taxpayers must have 30 days notice of a referendum.

Because Joel Barlow High School is a regional school and is shared by Easton and Redding residents, the project needs to be approved by a combined majority of the votes  in both towns.

Peggy Sullivan, finance director for Easton, Redding and Region 9, said a referendum is anticipated for Sept. 24.

Mark Lewis, Region 9 vice chair from Redding, said the need for the stadium field project is still unclear to him and that it’s an extremely high risk project with a high risk probability of failure.

“People shouldn’t make a false assumption that it’ll be easy [for the field to pass],” said Mr. Lewis. “I support it going to the voters but it should be simple and clear.”

Leon Karvelis, Region 9 board member of Redding, said he is glad the project is moving forward.

Carolyn Colangelo, Region 9 board member of Easton, said she  hopes the public approves the project and she is glad the parking lot improvements will be included for the safety and accessibility of visitors.

The board will be coming back to taxpayers in the spring for a roof replacement and restoration project, Ms. Gombos said.

“This [the roof work] is a need to have,” said Ms. Gombos. “We’ll need voter support in the spring.”

Ms. Gombos also said that at the next Region 9 meeting on Aug. 20, she will appoint a building committee for the field project.

“We’ve learned our lesson,” she said, referring to the Barlow addition project.

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