After a lengthy discussion of the proposed new Morgan School building, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) did approve a bond resolution for $64,750,000 on March 7.
The vote was as follows: First Selectman Willie Fritz (yes); Dolly Mezzetti (yes); Thomas Vicino (yes); Carol Walter (no); John Giannotti (abstained).
What the bond resolution means is that the town will move forward in the process towards a referendum vote for the construction of a new school. The referendum vote is tentatively scheduled for April 11. Prior to the vote there will be a town meeting which will adjourn to referendum vote due to the fact that the amount of the bond is more than two percent of the town's tax levy.
The Morgan Building Committee has .
The price to construct the school is $64.75 million ($3.75 million less than the ) for 136,000 square feet. Current state reimbursement rates are 36 percent, which means the state would pay for $19 million of the total project; the town would carry $45.5 million.
Selectman Carol Walter had many comments about the proposed new high school saying "the public hasn't had the opportunity to hear other options."
"The Morgan Building Committee did not perform due diligence," she said, in reference to them providing a cost analysis of renovating or re-purposing areas and "has further questions to answer associated with the costs."
For example, Walter wanted to know where the figures were that support the $1 million a year spent on renovations to the school. In addition, she said she wants to know what the cost of bonding is and that she's never seen an estimate on the price of maintaining the building's roof.
"Shame on the Board of Education for letting Morgan get to this condition," said Walter. "They let these repairs go for years and years. Now we need to spend $65 million on 20 years of neglect."
Walter said she was suspicious of the expedient time-line of the process saying it is "fast and furious."
"My gut instinct is that the committee is trying to get this approved before the summer residents come back," she said.
First Selectman Fritz shed light on several areas including the April 11 time-line of the referendum vote.
"The proposal to build a new school needs to be approved and get to the state by June 30 so the state can approve it in 2013," he said.
He added that the proposals to renovate like new, build new, and partially renovate were presented more than a year ago to the public. Moving forward with the build new proposal was approved by the Boards of Selectmen, Finance and Education and at a town meeting, said Fritz.
John Giannotti, who is on the Morgan Building Committee, said that a new school "is the best thing for the town," especially due to the economic development opportunities for the existing school's location. He referred to that property as "the most valuable commercial piece in Clinton."
"Do I want to spend that type of money? Not really," said Giannotti, who pointed out that the numbers are conservative, the contingency amount may decrease, and the septic number may also decrease.
There was confusion on how the sale of the existing school property might impact the state's reimbursement of the new project.
Fritz said that if the referendum passes and the new school is built up the road, the Board of Education would turn the old Morgan School property over to the town. The town then markets the property to a buyer. A recent appraisal came in at $5 million and includes the building, he said.
Proceeds from the sale of that property would go into the general fund, said Fritz. That money could be allocated to the project line item for the new school to reduce the amount borrowed and debt.