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Will The New Morgan School Have A New Address? [Updated]

Selectmen approve expenditure for testing the property. The Morgan Building Committee recommends a 36-acre site at 71 Killingworth Turnpike owned by Clinton Nurseries for the location in which to build the new school.

The Morgan Building Committee had an attentive audience last night as they announced their recommendations to build a new high school on a new site - one less than a mile up the road.

It was the first time the committee had talked about moving the school to another site in a public meeting.

"After months of investigation and negotiation, the town of Clinton's Morgan Building Committee unanimously recommended moving forward with plans to build the new on a site located at 71 Killingworth Turnpike," said the committee in a prepared statement.

The 36-acre parcel is owned by . It is located about a mile north of the existing high school on Route 81, across the street from Sweetwater Farm.

Gerry Vece, chairman of the committee, said the town has reached a tentative agreement with the owners of the property. The amount of the agreement has not yet been disclosed.

First Selectman Willie Fritz said he has a proposed agreement, in writing, to sell the existing Morgan building and site for $3.9 million.

Architect David Thompson, who is working on preliminary plans for the new school in order to have them priced by construction manager Gilbane, said he believes that if the town sells the existing school site, the town does not have to "repay" the state the reimbursement money it will receive when building a new school.

"If the town has a windfall after selling the old school and gets reimbursed on the new, whatever benefit the town has by selling the property is separate," said Thompson.

Both Vece and committee member David Townsend said the cost of the move would not increase the original proposed cost of the new school due to the fact that the demolition costs are removed from the equation and that the old site would be sold.

The benefits of moving the school to the 71 Killingworth Turnpike location are many, said members of the committee, including:

  1. No disruption to the students and staff while the new school is being built
  2. Its location adjacent to the Ethel Peters Complex and the Joel Elementary School would create an extended campus and make for a better collaboration between high school and elementary programs
  3. Students would no longer have to be transported by bus to the Peters Complex for their athletic activities
  4. The property would allow for more usable space and improve home athletic field availability
  5. The new location would enhance safety and traffic flow
  6. The new location would remove the school from a busy commercial district
  7. The existing site could be sold and transformed into commercial use - increasing the town's grand list and tax base
  8. The estimated cost of $4 million to demolish the existing school goes away

The next steps include engineering work (surveying, soils testing, field verification of grades, wetlands study) on the proposed site. No testing has been done on the property by the town.

The committee made a motion to spend $13,000 for engineering work by Nathan L. Jacobson & Associates, Inc. of Chester ($11,000) and Environmental Compliance Services (ECS) of Branford ($2,000) and send the request to the Board of Selectmen.

Update as of Nov. 16: the Board of Selectmen approved the $13,000 and sent the request to the Board of Finance. As a note, the money is coming from a surplus in the BOE budget from fiscal '10-'11.

If the BOF approve it, the next steps will include the estimation of costs to build by the construction management company, Gilbane.

Vece said that they are looking at a February, 2012 time frame to present the design of the new school and the costs to build it to the public.

Questions and feedback can be addressed to Gerry Vece through the committee's website at http://www.clintonct.org/morgan.htm

Steve Bristol November 18, 2011 at 03:06 AM
Mrs. Nye, I know of a few people who voted 'aye' yet are now strongly opposed. I also noticed a considerable number of teachers and other school system and town employees, PTA members, etc. in attendance so I wouldn't exactly claim that as a valid benchmark.
Bradford J. Sullivan November 18, 2011 at 03:15 AM
I have followed this thread with interest. I think a public hearing and a referendum vote is the only way a new high school could be built. I think it is obvious that this is a critical issue that will be decided within the next year. Making sure you are informed is extremely important. It is equally important to respect other's opinions without resorting to puerile antics. Some hijinks are humorous but berating someone to the point they remove their anonymous posts should give the adults here pause. I respectfully ask that we treat each other as members of the same community confronting a little bit of conflict and endeavoring to work through our problems to an enlightened compromise and inevitable resolution.
VIN CIMINO November 18, 2011 at 11:41 AM
Brad, another year is intolerable. How many more years for a wastewater solution? It's time for residents to stand up, without hiding behind a fake identity, and speak their minds. I don't care about a little bit of conflict. We need a formal presentation now, followed by a referendum and decision. There is no inevitable resolution other than the Morgan issue must be addressed immediately.
Bruce Lighty November 18, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Brad, Could you please educate me and others who may be interested on the financial impact on bonding. I have heard for years about the possibility of a large expenditure for waste water treatment. The dollars that get tossed around are similar to the expense of a new school. I would presume that there are formulas as to the levels of bonding that are prudent. Can we afford a new school and a waste water treatment plant if it becomes necessary? Thank you.
Jim Braun November 18, 2011 at 02:54 PM
What you wrote is kind of funny. I actually would agree with you, but I draw the line on troublemakers when the faculty actually starts questioning what the heck is going on with all the troubling incidents that have happened so far this year. I don't like spitting out my resume, but I am a structural engineer. I've been in a dozen or so schools that my company provided structural members for in the '50s and '60s that were slated for rehab, not demo and rebuild, and I scratched my head at why they chose to rehab rather than rebuild. Morgan is not one that I would feel that way about. I also went to a very prestigous university and guess what? We learned cutting edge technology in 150 plus year old buildings. My house is kind of drafty. I think I'll tear it down and build a new one to save money. In closing, my oldest is a freshman and my youngest graduates in 2027, so the easy route for me would be to jump on the "now is the time" bandwagon while at the same time burying my head in the sand.
Martin Shapiro November 18, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Jim and Valerie, I do not have any kids in Morgan and do NOT know what you both are chatting about. What is going on? What is the faculty questioning? Are they or have they lost control of the student body? Jim, Are you saying that your professional opinion is that Morgan should be rehabbed? Not replaced? (Morgan is not one that I would feel that way about.) I think that is important information from a structural engineer. My degree is in Mechanical and Metallurgical engineering. I respect the opinions of my colleagues. Can you explain your statement a bit more, without getting too technical. Thank you.
Jim Braun November 18, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Martin, I've heard about drugs, suspensions, expulsions, threats, etc. that are running at a higher rate than normal. I don't think they have "lost control", but there are concerns over why it is happening. I know these things exist, but it is the "jump" that needs to be explained. As for my professional opinion, I am going by the structural engineer's comments in the reports that have been provided. I take those comments to mean that the structure is in good shape. I know the roof configuration is a problem, but roof profiles can be fixed. A lot can be done with a structurally sound building. Nothing I say here is a "professional" opinion on Morgan as I have never inspected the building. I am merely taking the comments from the engineer that inspected it and drawing the conclusion that the building is sound enough for a rehab option to be possible. As for buildings I have inspected, but limited to specific structural members that my company provided, I can tell you that I have seen buildings that were close to unrepairable due to some components suffering the effects of water infiltration or just plain poor original construction details. I saw the work they were doing to fix those deficiencies and it seemed to me that it would make more sense to demo and rebuild. Based on the engineer's comments on Morgan, that sort of work would not be necessary to rehab Morgan. In closing, I will state I am neither yay or nay on the new school.....yet.
Martin Shapiro November 18, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Who are you?
Martin Shapiro November 18, 2011 at 05:12 PM
TO: Fay Abrahamsson (repeat of last evening's post) Fay, How did VOTE YES delete all his posts? How do I delete mine? Now he is really hiding. Well, if he could not take the heat, he should not have come into the kitchen. So like the little person (s)he must be, (s)he picked up his(er) marbles and went home. Bye
Martin Shapiro November 18, 2011 at 05:33 PM
Brad, With regard to the wastewater system, cost and bonding, it will go something like this: The total cost is, lets say, $40 million. The State will pay, let's say, 40% or $16M. That leaves $24M to be paid by the Town. Half of that, let's say, will be assessed to the properties that the sewer lines will serve, say $12 Million. That leaves $12 Million for the Town to absorb into the general budget. Annual operating cost of the system will be paid by the users of the system, i.e. those who hook up to the sewer. Not all properties that the sewer serves will hook up. Only those who do hook up will be charged for the processing of their waste. The %'s i use for this illustration are just my conjecture. Maybe the State reimbursement will be more than 40% or less. Maybe the remainder will not be shared 50/50 between the properties that could hook up and the entire Town. We need the WPCC to complete their work, their study, and provide a plan that can be priced out and then be put to the voters in Clinton for approval. Presuming approval, the specific portions of the project will be put out to bid.
VIN CIMINO November 18, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Jim, thank you for sharing your professional background and your point of view. I share your opinion insofaras I am definitely not convinced that a new building would be better or less expensive. As you explained, the structural engineer has indicated that the current Morgan is structurally sound. We can do a remodel that will result in a better building that salvages the existing auditorium and double gymnasium and can result in more classroom space, fewer students per classroom, a better location and less expense. Like you, I haven't made up my mind on the issue yet, but the process is severely flawed. I want to see what a remodel could look like and provide, as compared with a new building, and the comparable associated expense. Then, after a formal public hearing that includes a fair presentation of both options, this needs to go to referendum. The community needs to support whatever the ultimate decision is at referendum.
Bradford J. Sullivan November 18, 2011 at 08:00 PM
The short answer is that we can "afford" a lot of things based upon our credit rating, but that doesn't mean that the town should just blindly move forward with either project without having all of the facts, which we do not have yet. I have not reviewed the town's updated debt service figures that take into consideration the actual versus estimated increase, if any, of that general government line item for Clinton's debt payments. I have requested this information from the Finance Department and will post it here when I get it.
Bradford J. Sullivan November 18, 2011 at 08:05 PM
I agree with this part of your post: "We need the WPCC to complete their work, their study, and provide a plan that can be priced out and then be put to the voters in Clinton for approval." The rest of your post is mere speculation.
Bradford J. Sullivan November 18, 2011 at 08:11 PM
Vin, I tend to agree that another year of waiting is intolerable, but I am confident that WPCC is doing its work diligently. While we are waiting for the WPCC presentation, maybe we can have a dialogue about how to get EDC up and running with a budget and a development plan. Doug Traynor, Alan Kravitz, you and many others have some ideas that deserve some attention. Brad
Martin Shapiro November 18, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Brad, The numbers ARE speculation, i.e., the Total Cost, the % reimbursement from the State, and the % division between the users and the general budget. But for Bruce's information, the concept of the division of the cost is NOT speculation. That is pretty much the way every municipality does it. Do you agree with that?
Ron November 18, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Vince I and many others will agree, and most will agree that we CAN NOT afford this! with our property vaules down and our taxes high the entire town needs decide not just the select few! those who live near the school will stand to loose more, this needs to stop!!!
Fay Abrahamsson (Editor) November 19, 2011 at 02:16 AM
Martin - I saw your first question, thanks. I have no idea how "Vote Yes" deleted his/her posts. If 3 or more people found the post offensive and tag it, it will come off. If you want your posts deleted, I will be happy to do it for you.
Bradford J. Sullivan November 19, 2011 at 11:54 AM
Martin, Bruce, Vin, Phil, Ron, Alan I have no idea how Clinton vis-a-vis the WPCC will proceed because they haven't figured that out yet, and any presentation about the particulars will not take place until August 2012. I do know that there is a statutory and regulatory framework within which Clinton (or CRAHD) adopts resolutions creating a sewer authority with the power to determine assessments, hook-ups, costs, etc. You should definitely bring these questions to light with the WPCC; or better yet, go to one of the public meetings. What is the EDC doing to get ready for the arrival of a wastewater solution and how does it fit into a plan of zoning renaissance and development? Doug Traynor was at CEC this past Thursday and submitted an admittedly placeholder capital appropriation of approx. $3 Million, but EDC still doesn't have an operating budget let alone any real capital plan. What about planning and zoning? Asking the planning and zoning commission about Clinton's regulations and whether they support increased commercial/industrial development should be on the to-do list. I have certainly read a lot of opinions from people (and spoken in person to many others) about "expanding the tax base" in Clinton but I haven't seen anything about any re-zoning or adoptions of a development plan. Confucius said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. So, what's the first step? I am an attorney not a town planner. Kindest regards, Brad
Bradford J. Sullivan November 19, 2011 at 12:57 PM
I think getting upset about things that haven't happened yet is a waste of energy.
VIN CIMINO November 19, 2011 at 01:12 PM
Brad, the ultimate goal of the town needs to be solving the wastewater issue on a scale that allows for controlled future development that will broaden our tax base. That will provide additional revenue that will permit large scale projects like Morgan High School, Main Street Enhancement, etc. The answer isn't small community septic systems but rather a larger system on the Sciongay property. A plan of development is also required but, as you know, the Town Planner was let go. The EDC is unqualified and has cancelled half their meetings the past year. P&Z is led by an ignorant, indignant chairman who just pushed through yet another incredibly stupid decision this past week regarding the Watts property while completely ignoring letters in opposition from the Police Commission and the Chief. There is no leadership, no plan, no direction. Confucious also said, "When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” We must hire a qualified Town Planner, reconstitute the EDC, P&Z and ZBA and acquire the Sciongay property. A Town Plan of Development must be constructed with associated regulations. Not in a year or 5 years or 10 years; NOW!
Bradford J. Sullivan November 19, 2011 at 01:28 PM
Vin, For the record, I am not taking a position on the Watts property and the PZC decision. With respect to your other points concerning development, i.e., wastewater and "large scale projects," Clinton has to remain vigilant concerning the impact of increasing its debt. The rule of thumb in some quarters is that municipalities should not have debt service that is in excess of 10% of its operating budgets (Clinton is in the 5% range). We don't know yet what the total debt service will be in light of the recent bonded projects. Again, I do not disagree with your assertion that Clinton needs a plan. I have been saying that for a long time, Vin. We have to work within the system we have in place. Democracy, by design, is slow and deliberate; sometimes too slow, but that is the trade-off allowing everyone to have the opportunity to get involved. Despite my Irish heritage, Vin, which always has me fearing that death and pestilence is just around the corner, I am optimistic about the future of Clinton because many, many people are truly paying attention a lot more today than they were when I was first appointed to the Finance Board. It's a good thing and we need to continue the dialogue through this year's budget process and forward. Best, Brad
alan kravitz November 19, 2011 at 01:37 PM
We all agree that Morgan School problems and that we should have an open, transparent process to deal with them. We are debating how that process should be organized. The traditional approach has allowed a relatively small group, made up primarily of education advocates, utilizing public funds, to bring a proposal to the public for what amounts to a simple "yes or no" vote. That process worked fairly well in optimistic times, in rapidly growing and fairly homogeneous suburban communities. We don't really meet any of those conditions. When that happens the usual result is a series of defeated proposals. We need a process that allows for informed public choice at several stages: identification of the options, analysis of the costs and benefits associated with the options, selection of an option, and funding a specific plan. It would seem from this discussion that we are somewhere in stage 2 having an argument, an uninformed argument about our options. We lack sufficient cost and benefit data about our options and are spending funds to advance a specific one. I suggest that we meed to spend some time and money to develop the information that the public needs to give its support to its choice. The fragmented data that has been presented seems insufficient to me and to many others. Too few stakeholders have been engaged in the process and convinced about the decisions made to date. This is a recipe for defeat and failure to resolve the underlying educational need.
Bradford J. Sullivan November 19, 2011 at 01:44 PM
Vin, For the record, I am not taking a position on the Watts property and the PZC decision. With respect to your other points concerning development, i.e., wastewater and "large scale projects," Clinton has to remain vigilant concerning the impact of increasing its debt. The rule of thumb in some quarters is that municipalities should not have debt service that is in excess of 10% of its operating budgets (Clinton is in the 5% range). We don't know yet what the total debt service will be in light of the recent bonded projects. Again, I do not disagree with your assertion that Clinton needs a plan. I have been saying that for a long time, Vin. We have to work within the system we have in place. Democracy, by design, is slow and deliberate; sometimes too slow, but that is the trade-off allowing everyone to have the opportunity to get involved. Despite my Irish heritage, Vin, which always has me fearing that death and pestilence is just around the corner, I am optimistic about the future of Clinton because many, many people are truly paying attention a lot more today than they were when I was first appointed to the Finance Board. It's a good thing and we need to continue the dialogue through this year's budget process and forward. Best, Brad
Dick Dondero November 19, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Alan well. All of the options need to be presented in detail for the Taxpayers to make an informed choice.
Phil Sengle November 19, 2011 at 05:27 PM
Alan hit the nail on the head again. Here is his key statement -- "The traditional approach has allowed a relatively small group, made up primarily of education advocates, utilizing public funds, to bring a proposal to the public for what amounts to a simple "yes or no" vote". That process worked fairly well in optimistic times, in rapidly growing and fairly homogeneous suburban communities. We don't really meet any of those conditions. When that happens the usual result is a series of defeated proposals." And to me this has always been the rub. The process is driven by "education advocates" who may have decided the answer before the process began. The deck appears stacked. No other option is given serous consideration and Morgan maintenance was let go to help prove their case. They hire a company that mainly only builds new. So ironically the school committee may have doomed this to failure. This may be perception, but perception is reality. As an example proponents often cite rehab as requiring "build as new" which clearly would be more expensive than building new and would "prove in" the case for new. What was never offered (as far as I know) is a series of $4.9M renovations that would not require "building or rehabing as new". Such renovatons would be eligible for state reimbursement. This would save our double gym and oversized auditorium. Every action has an opposite and equal reaction. So by over selling new, the proponents are getting more push back.
Steve Bristol November 21, 2011 at 01:57 PM
CONT>>> Past experience has made me very cynical but it appears as though we're pushing this for a mid-Winter meeting and referendum. This meets two important needs--voting at a time when high taxpaying Summer people will find it difficult as well as getting done BEFORE we have plans/figures for the State-mandated wastewater solution, destined to be in the tens of millions.
Steve Bristol November 21, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Brad, I have been attending WPCC meetings and much of this past Spring's testing window was wasted pursuing an already rejected piece of property and many $$ were spent getting approval, training and RR assistance in simply crossing the tracks. I asked at one point if this had been rejected once before---CDM said yes but it now looked promising. ??? They HAVE identified a couple properties but have no idea if it's practical or what it would cost to actually pipe to them for sub-surface disposal. They are also still considering school sites, which found tremendous resistance from the public at last mention....and little mention of Sciongay. Now, we find that we won't know too much more plan or cost-wise until next Summer...which ties into the info below. As with those members WF tried to 'fire' some time ago, before not re-appointing, I see a couple current members extremely frustrated with the snail-like progress. Now we are being shoved torward a new Morgan on a new site. It has been the plan all along as anyone following the entire process can easily see. Back in Sept., when the Bldg. Comm. meetings re-started, we were told that that night would be the generic version of preliminary plans, two weeks later would be the unveiling of the actual prelim plans and two weeks hence would be cost figures of the plan. At the last meeting, we learned that costs are still well away while we still speak of a referendum time.
Steve Bristol November 21, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Other items to be considered--the square-footage of the proposed new building seems to be creeping up (un-reimbursed), plus we still need to re-locate/re-build the BOE maintenance area that currently is within the present building. We also need to find/create space for what has referred to as the "technology bunker." Other additional costs reported as saved are the ability to walk to the Peters Complex for athletic teams. Of course, a bridge will need to be built for that yet never seems to find its way into the discussion. Also claimed as savings is the bus not being required to transport athletes to Peters---yet that bus also covers transportation to IRC...which would still be needed to get to the turf field. The pro-build new crowd also touts energy savings yet fail to address why a solar grant was rejected for the existing Morgan. They don't mention that Morgan is structurally sound, that the roof still needs to be replaced, or that there is/was an interior flat roof on a new building drawing. I'd love a new school but it isn't physically required or affordable.
Steve Bristol November 22, 2011 at 09:10 PM
I'll take it a step further. I don't think renovate or build new at the present site was paid anything more than lip service. At last night's BOE meeting, board member and MBC chair Gerry Vece mentioned the agreement in principle for the new school site--and commented that they've "been negotiating for that property for well over a year." That rather puts a nice bow on WF's comment to my brother and me at the IRC turf walk-through mid-October '10---nearly verbatim---with this field along with some new ones at the Clinton Nursery site for the new school and a bridge from there over to Peters, we'll have plenty of athletic fields. Those comments rather fly in the face of the well...maybe new, maybe renovate, maybe here , maybe there. Personal experience with some of these people tells me that they planned to disregard any firms or plans that weren't build new at a new site. Remember, it started as a roof committee. This entire process has been a sham...they intend to ram this through come heck or high water.
Stephen King November 23, 2011 at 01:27 AM
The real shame in all this is the total disregard and short-sightedness of how our national economy, revenues, tax policy, and entitlements will without a doubt come home to roost and effect us all. Most households have and will continue to tighten their belts as a result of economic uncertainty and what economist are telling us. It's too bad leadership in this town is hell bent on ignoring it. A new school would be nice but it's a want not a need. We need leadership that can prioritize our needs and conservatively keep this town's debt low in anticipation of the federal and state impacts. Anything less, is just a mirror repeat of what got this country into trouble to begin with- writing checks it couldn't cash.

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