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Only Necessary THS Renovations Will Continue, For Now

As the Trumbull High School renovations near their end at the close of the summer, items such as parking lot paving and a concession stand have been tabled.

The  renovation project funding remains at $64 million, after the Board of Finance deadlocked on returning $4 million in contigency funds to the bonding package.

Last year, the $4 million was cut by the Town Council but there was confusion as to who made that request. It was agreed the committee could return to ask for the funds again. Owner's Representative Al Barbarotta noted he was asked his opinion on cutting the $4 million but did not ask for it to be cut.

Now, with completion slated for the end of summer, several non-essential items have been tabled because unforseen costs have cropped up. The finance board voted 3-3 on the matter.

"It is strongly advised we don't award" any more contracts without more money in the contingency fund, said James Nugent, Building Committee chairman. "Without additional funding, we cannot award contracts."

If the Town Council does not overturn the finance board's decision by a 2/3 majority, then items including parking lot paving and a concession stand cannot be contracted.

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On the motion to approve the request, members Andy Palo, Tom Tesoro and Steve Lupien voted yes, and Paul Lavoie, David Rutigliano and Chairwoman Elaine Hammers voted no. Palo is a republican and Tesoro and Lupien democrats; the three nay votecasters are all republicans.

Tesoro argued that "we're restoring funds that were probably incorrectly removed about a year ago."

"If it were up to me, I'd build no concession stand. I do want this project to move forward," he added. "There is no reason that money should have been removed."

He praised Al Barbarotta, the owner's representative, Nugent and the building committee. "I think you've done a brilliant job of keeping this on track," he said.

The original bond package was reduced with removal of a pool, and Barbarotta said savings have been found where possible. A new auditorium was also built for the school.

Concession Stand Questioned

The current concession stand cannot be re-opened because it does not meet state health codes. It pulls in $5,000 a year to fund activities for the students who run it, school officials have said.

Hammers had a different view.

"It's not a kitchen. It's a hotdog stand. This is getting so out-of-hand. It's insane," she said, adding the plans call for a kitchen that's better than the one in her home.

Barbarotta replied that the concession stand approved by the Town Council would have bathrooms and serve food.

He noted that the bids for the Council's commissioned design have come in at $800,000, but the council wanted to build it for about $500,000. That means more in architect fees as it is trimmed down.

Hammers asked, "Why do we need all this construction? Would anybody build their own house like this?"

Barbarotta suggested pulling the parking lot out of the project and combining it with other paving. Public Works Director John Marsilio said he could shave $460,000 from the cost.

Alternate member Cindy Penkoff said, "We've committed $65 million to one school and I'm not impressed," she said, noting that other schools have needs too.

"We have now another request for $4 million," she added. Penkoff could not vote on the matter.

She praised Barbarotta for answering the board's questions "honestly."

Another alternate, Susan LaFrance, noted, "I believe you're at a point where you have to work within the $64 million." She also could not vote on the matter. 

dave wilsoon May 24, 2012 at 05:54 PM
So for $70 million bucks, we can't afford to pave the parking lots? Really?
JR May 24, 2012 at 07:34 PM
If they had $70 million it would be no problem.
dave wilsoon May 25, 2012 at 12:53 AM
OK JR I'll play your childish game. For $64 million we can't pave the parking lots?
Regina Lewis May 25, 2012 at 01:31 AM
At $64 million dollars, this like new renovation was not alot of money when you think of the size of the building and the number of students it serves. I am getting tired of people citing the amount without any context or like comparison. With the time you have on your hands, I dare you to find one that backs up your statement.
Tom Kelly May 25, 2012 at 01:49 AM
If you watch the Board of Finance meetings, it's explained very clearly about the parking lot. The first estimate was $1 million. Then, they did borings and determined the soil under the pavement was not right and led to fast deterioration of the surface. So more work is needed and the estimate is now $2.3 million. The Building Committee can't go out and contract for that amount because they are too close to the $64 million total and can't take a chance that it will run over. The $4 million may never need to be SPENT, but it is needed to CONTRACT because without it, there is no margin for error or unanticipated expenses.

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