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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 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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