Carr: "New Morgan School Plans Disappoint Supporters"

"Voters have a right to change their minds."


This letter is written by Kirk Carr, Clinton Taxpayers Association Treasurer:

A note: Links provided by the CTA

Unreported by the local media is the brewing disillusionment of many new Morgan supporters with a proposed new design from Newman Architects that to one Morgan School Building Committee (MSBC) member looks like a “circa 1978 Econolodge. “

Valerie Nye, who was a cofounder New Morgan New Future and a member of Clinton’s Board of Finance put it this way at the Morgan School Building Committee (MSBC) public presentation held December 11, 2012:

[I feel like that’s the school we are in now]

“…if you saw the original preliminary conceptual design that the voters voted on…  This is actually a lot different than what we saw… I don’t know if you know the pain we have been through, but we all feel as if that’s the school we are in now.  It’s a very broken up school.  I think that’s kind of why people are having this reaction.”

Selectman Carol Walter added:

[It’s just not what we were presented a year ago.]

“To me this is like the little brother of this school [current Morgan].  It’s angles, it’s corners, it’s partitions and it looks frankly like a maintenance nightmare.   You are getting all of these roofs back; you have many, many, many feet of exterior areas that need to be maintained, very similar to what we have here… It’s just not what we were presented a year ago.”

In the MSBC meetings that followed on December 18 and January 15, no one mentioned anything about the public comments made on December 11 or promises made by Jerry Vece, the committee chair and Richard Munday, the architect, to take into consideration these criticisms and to refine plans accordingly.  Finally, on January 24, David Townsend and Peter Nye raised the issue, even though as Mr. Nye revealed, any perceived disloyalty to the committee’s party line may result in the threat of expulsion from the committee.

[I see what I consider a circa 1978 EconoLodge]

David Townsend opened the issue by saying: “I look at the exterior and for me, I see what I consider a circa 1978 EconoLodge.  I have a really, really hard time with it aesthetically.   There is no continuity to any facet of it.   It looks like a committee put it together…I am not seeing any aesthetic characteristic to me that has any appeal...I’m just not getting it.  It’s a mixture of 50s, 60s and 70s to me… I am talking about the exterior faces, the elevations of the entirety of the structure - and the rooflines.  The rooflines are just bizarre."

[We’re going to give you something that looks pretty much like what you already have.]

From that, Peter Nye may have gained the courage to add: “That is where the bait and switch sense comes from… We are going to have to answer to it – that’s all.  It’s just that we have half the population who avert their eyes and hold their noses when they drive by the Morgan School everyday.  They went out and voted because like we can’t let our kids in there.  There are all kinds of issues in there...And now we are going to go to them and say, hey look we’re going to give you something that looks pretty much like what you already have…

“You guys probably already know that I almost got thrown off the committee for having conversations with people in their own living rooms…

“When we interview people for these jobs and we say [to prospective vendors] hey is this feasible, is this number any good.  And they say yea, the number is a good number.  [We say] OK we’ll hire you and then when the time comes, they say oh well, no one really thought that through.”

Now citizens of Clinton can see where the MSBC and the new architect from Newman Architects are going.   As a consequence, many who not only voted for this school, but also lobbied their neighbors to come out and vote for it, are having second thoughts, at least about how the plans are now developing visually.

Since the referendum and 63 days after the main property was purchased on Killingworth Turnpike, results were released of tests of soil samples taken by ECS, which showed concentrations of chlordane, dieldrin and arsenic that exceed DEEP direct exposure criteria.   Jerry Vece had publicly promised that these tests would be completed BEFORE the property was purchased.  ECS has now been hired to develop a soil management plan that will not be completed for two to four months, at which time remediation feasibility and costs will be fully known, for the first time.

The historic home at 69 Killingworth Turnpike was later purchased to make room for the new school.  At the Town Meeting on December 12, where this purchase was narrowly approved, in part because of the historic significance of the home, (it was built in 1800 on the farm of a Minuteman) promises were made to make preservation efforts.  At the MSBC meeting held on January 24, Jerry Vece announced that only $40,000 was budgeted to demolish the entire structure, including historic portions.  Unless the Town can find some means to preserve it, the committee intends to demolish it this Fall.  These potentially significant costs will be in addition to the $64.75 million passed at referendum and without any state education cost sharing or Clinton will demolish another historic structure.

People should not be shocked.  The MSBC and the proponents of this new School have fabricated all sorts of reasons to justify building this new school that were simply not true.  The current school does not cost a million dollars a year to maintain.  The current location, portions of which sit on a level A aquifer, is not Clinton’s most promising undeveloped commercial property.  The Northeast Association of Schools and Colleges is not threatening to decertify the Morgan School due to building conditions or for any other reason.  The cost of building a new school will not cost less than renovating the current school.  The school now proposed doesn’t look anything like the school voters were sold before the referendum.

For all of these reasons the Board of Selectmen should abide by the Town Charter and respect the citizens right to petition to change their minds about the new Morgan that so narrowly passed on April 11.   The Town deserves another referendum to make a more informed and rational decision about a major expense that will add over $3 million to Clinton’s annual debt service for 20 years.  This will result in a tax increase of as much as 9% and/or will have to be absorbed in whole or in part within existing school budgets.

A court decision from the Honorable Judge Julia Aurigemma is due in mid-March.  It is now up to her to protect Clinton voters’ right to petition.

For more video links go to Channel CTA.

--- Kirk Carr

Steve Bristol February 05, 2013 at 07:47 PM
Kirk In my opinion, you give the hand-wringers too much credit. I've viewed it as pure posturing for show all along. You see similar from legislators who vote against legislation they know will pass to mollify their base of support. I also view it as a bunch of butt-covering for when criticism is leveled 'down the road.' Steve
Jay February 05, 2013 at 09:38 PM
Is this plan cheaper to build than the originally presented one?
Idiocracy February 05, 2013 at 09:53 PM
How about the people who voted for the new school but are now opting to send their kids to private school??
MrsSmithWatchingWashington February 05, 2013 at 10:23 PM
I ask again: Do we have the worst run town on the Shoreline or what?
Eileen Smith February 06, 2013 at 01:08 AM
I am not disappointed. I am thrilled that the supporters of the Morgan school project are closely monitoring the progress of the design. I love that they speak their mind (both pros and cons) while always keeping their eye on the goal of a much needed new, amazing Morgan school.
Jay February 06, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Thrilled about a Bait and Switch?? Ct is broke- thrilled about that? Malloy is spending tax money desperately pump priming and it is not working - thrilled about that? The state's population is falling as people leave and are not replaced. Thrilled about that ? There is no evidence new school buildings make kids smarter - just makes school more convenient - thrilled about that? Seniors have no way to increase their income to survive in Clinton - you thrilled about that too? Esty told seniors twenty years ago to move out. Does that thrill you??.
Eileen Smith February 06, 2013 at 02:08 AM
I am thrilled that the supporters of the new Morgan school are closely monitoring the design. The referendum passed and the school will be built. I am glad that the supporters are watching over the process.
Steve Bristol February 06, 2013 at 01:48 PM
All, I should have included that while I frequently take issue with many town committees' members' motivation, processes and results, I absolutely respect the amount of time and effort that some put forward as volunteers on those committees. It was wrong for me not to have included that. Steve
Lisa February 06, 2013 at 02:56 PM
If we actually bought that land, why is Clinton Nurseries still using it ?
Bruce Farmer February 06, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Based on the current design changes - Does anybody know what the State reimbursement percentage will be. I assume less than the original figures that people were given prior to the vote. Thanks
VIN CIMINO February 06, 2013 at 09:02 PM
The residents of Clinton should at least be allowed to vote on the school design. After all, it's their $65 million.
VIN CIMINO February 06, 2013 at 09:17 PM
We should all speak our minds. There is nothing "amazing" about the building design. It's a major disappointment. No verdict has been handed down regarding the new referendum, either, but the soil tests have now revealed contaminated soil. Does the community really want to build a new school on a site containing contamination?
Kirk Carr February 06, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Lisa: The property at 71-79 Killingworth TPKE was purchased on April 27, in violation of Connecticut General Statute 8-24, which requires all municipal property purchases to be referred to the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) for a report PRIOR to purchase. If disapproved, the purchase requires a 2/3 vote to overrule. This was not presented to PZC until June 11, for a rubber stamp. Now, to answer your question - At the time of the sale, a lease was signed requiring Clinton Nurseries to pay monthly rent of $372.16, which is the prorata equivalent to what the annual taxes ($4,466) were on the property prior to sale. So, while Clinton Nurseries has use of this property, they also have use of $3.7 million of Town monies, which have an internal rate of return of .5% or $18,500 annually and a cost of about 3.5% or $129,500 annually. Pretty sweet! A copy of the lease is available at: http://gocta.org/uploads/Clinton_Nurseries_Lease_Agreement.pdf BTW - the Town will seek a zoning variance for ground coverage for the new Morgan on this property at the Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing February 20, 2013 at 7:30 in Town Hall, Mark Richards, Chair.
Kirk Carr February 07, 2013 at 02:51 AM
Here is a video of Jack Cross, Clinton Superintendent of Schools; Willie Fritz, Clinton First Selectman and Joseph Crouse, Owner's Rep from PMG, talking about the status of State reimbursements. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynVrI0S24ps The Building Committee has agreed to pay Newman Architects and FIP, the contractor, $140,000 in an attempt to prove to the State that building a new Morgan for $64.75 million will cost less than refurbishing the existing school. (Gilbane's renovation estimates were $43 to $52 million.) The State clearly wants to encourage renovation over new construction, which is why they have put a penalty on building new. Jack Cross talks about 37% for new vs 47% for renovate, unless they can make that case. That is a $5 million difference in reimbursed amount if they can convince the Bureau of School Facilities (BSF) or get a legislative override. They also talk about 165,000 square feet in the current Morgan. I am confused on both counts. The state reimbursement table shows the reimbursements as 31% and 41% (see http://gocta.org/uploads/State_Reimbursement.pdf) and the current Morgan is 155,600 square feet excluding courtyards (see http://gocta.org/uploads/Morgan_Facilities_Assessment_Age_Wings.pdf) And only 113,000 of 135,000 square feet and 26 of 37 acres, qualify for reimbursement. So these percentages are before space penalties that will reduce reimbursements about 25%.
Steve Bristol February 07, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Kirk At one of the presentations in the Morgan cafe, I asked the architect and the Chair why the renovation cost figure they were touting was for the full 165,000 sf and not what the same number as what the new building would be. Eventually, Chairman Vece pulled out a sheet and said the cost for the square footage was $49 million. Valid? I don't know but that's what was announced by the Chair. Steve
Jay February 07, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Simple repeat question - is the new design cheaper to build ?
Kirk Carr February 07, 2013 at 05:19 PM
Jay: The answer is not as simple as the question, which may be why no one has a definitive answer to offer. But the new architect and new builder seem to think that the answer is yes and that the original concept could not have been built within the approved funding amount. Without the benefit of a side by side comparison it is hard to say. And they don't yet know exactly what this new proposal will actually cost in the end yet anyway. In recent meetings a bell tower over the entrance and a double gabled roof on the gym have been added with cost estimates yet to be determined. What is known is that the public meetings before the referendum went into excruciating detail about the proposed building that was admittedly explained as merely a concept with lots of disclaimers. But that was the eye candy that may have convinced some borderline voters to vote and to vote yes. With such a small margin, this detail is significant.
Jay February 07, 2013 at 09:01 PM
Bait and switch = do not a majority make....
CL&P Response Disappointing February 07, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Mr Carr, Where are you getting the pdfs you are posting? I see no reference information on your data. Is that a CTA link you're connecting the reader to - what does gocta mean? I think if you are going to present facts and figures you should acknowledge from where you received the data. No?
Kirk Carr February 07, 2013 at 11:00 PM
To: Support the New Morgan School Your point about sources is well taken. It would strengthen the data to provide proper attribution. The reimbursement percent page is from Connecticut State Department of Education. Here is the link to their page from which this is derived: https://www.csde.state.ct.us/public/dgm/grantreports1/ReimbPercViewRpt.aspx The Morgan square footage is from the PowerPoint presented on January 20,2011 by members of the Morgan School Building Committee. The entire deck is available from The Day at: http://www.theday.com/assets/pdf/NL79503125.PDF Thanks for the suggestion.
Steve Bristol February 08, 2013 at 02:28 PM
An interesting Stossel show last night on Fox Business Channel. John Stossel is a Libertarian, for those who aren't familiar with him. He was Princeton-educated, worked for CBS-TV and then spent many years at ABC TV. He has rec'd many awards for his journalism, several for consumer reporting. He is also an author. Last night dealt with the US education system and was titled "Stupid in America." It will run again on Fox Business (not Fox News Channel) Saturday night at 9pm and midnight. It's not yet up on Stossel's website, where you can watch full episodes. Anyway, regardless of your political affiliation, I encourage all to watch the episode at some point. Steve
Bradford J. Sullivan February 14, 2013 at 06:19 AM
Will the CTA's attorney be appealing the Court's denial of its mandamus action?
Dom March 19, 2013 at 09:37 PM
If they're insisting on building a whole new place, the least they could do is make the roof flat, so solar panels can be installed and cut down the huge School Utility Bill as many other CT schools have already done. At least save some money THAT way.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something