School capital requests head to meeting

A Feb. 13 town meeting set by the selectmen Monday night, following action by the finance board, will have seven items on the agenda that deal specifically with capital requests for the Redding schools. An eighth item would also require town meeting approval but would be funded differently.

The meeting at the Redding Community Center at 7:30 also includes security-related appropriations for Redding Elementary and John Read Middle School (see story on page one).

Peggy Sullivan, director of finance and operations for Easton, Redding and Region 9 school districts, presented the capital requests for this fiscal year.

The request for a high-efficiency outdoor lighting upgrade for the elementary school, at a cost of $34,385, got immediate support from Bill Alvarez, finance board chairman, when he learned the work would bring a rebate of $51,000 from Connecticut Light & Power Co. The rebate would go directly to the town’s general fund.

Mr. Alvarez later recommended funding the light upgrade from the unassigend fund balance since the rebate would go there when it is received.

The other requests, totaling $534,000, are recommended for short-term borrowing through a Bond Anticipation Note pending long-term financing.

Among the capital requests are bathroom upgrades at the elementary school at a cost of $165,000 to complete the upgrade project that began with the 1948 section of the school. During the second phase, bathroom upgrades were completed in the 1957 addition.

Also recommended this fiscal year, instead of next fiscal year, are preschool and playground improvements at a cost of $45,000. The equipment was originally for third and fourth graders. The upgrade would make the playground age-appropriate and handicapped-accessible, Ms. Sullivan said. She added that the work is needed for accreditation for the preschool.

The requests for the elementary school capital items total $210,000.

For the middle school, Ms. Sullivan pointed to the need for the renovation of the former woodshop into a combined tech (architecture, electrical, HVAC) room at a cost of $60,000, roof repairs at $45,000, and bathroom upgrades to complete the project for $135,000. The total is $240,000, but the start of student locker replacements, beginning this fiscal year, was later added for $84,000, bringing the middle school capital requests to $324,000.

The items headed for separate votes at the town meeting were identified by Ms. Sullivan as immediate needs for this summer. She did not include the lockers, but Mike D’Agostino, a board member, wanted them included since they were identified as a need for this fiscal year.

First Selectman Natalie Ketcham suggested taking the capital requests to a separate town meeting since the meeting already had security-related appropriation requests requiring a presentation to the public. She said the school capital requests would also require a presentation with information for the public.

Mr. Alvarez wanted to include these requests with the town meeting votes. He said the town should know about these long-term needs and these items should be put on the town meeting “so there is full transparency for the town to vote on.”

There will be separate votes on the items that make up the $534,000 at the town meeting.

Joe Dolan, finance board member, questioned why there had to be separate votes instead of a package vote on the capital items. “I’m not sure an a la carte vote makes sense,” he said.

Ward Mazzucco, another member, said if there is merit behind each request, voters will approve them.

Jamie Barickman, a school board member, said he is confident voters will support the merits of the requests at the town meeting.

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