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. 

Joan May 17, 2012 at 03:25 PM
You're right, Kristy. You did say that. I still say that we might get better attendance at our outdoor events if we had proper facilities. (And I'm still wondering about those physically challenged people.) I have also been to events at a lot of other schools, and many (perhaps even most) of them have restroom facilities--separate ones for men and women--with multiple stalls. They're not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination, but they get the job done!
Kristy Waizenegger May 17, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Joan I agree with you - I support the buildling of a concession stand with bathroom facilities - it's disappointing that the state involvement makes it unnecessarily expensive and requires us to do things that really don't make sense - but I'm hopeful that we can make it happen. My comment about the stalls was just that it is likely much less expensive to build just one or two of those larger one room bathrooms with handicapped access rather than all the individual stalls but it is my understanding that the state requires stalls - just an example of how we are prevented from doing what might make more sense due to the state requirements. Anyway Joan, I think we both agree that a concession stand with appropriate facilities is a good thing.
JR May 17, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Aaron, Could you please site the THSBC meeting minutes where the committee voted to reduce the bonding to $64 million. I'd like to see their reasoning. Thanks.
Cindy Katske May 17, 2012 at 05:14 PM
JR, those minutes do not exist, because the building committee never voted to reduce the bonding or even discussed it. Check out the Town Council minutes from the July 7, 2011 meeting. That was the meeting after the TC cut the renovation funding. The minutes show that the building committee chair said that there had been NO discussion of reducing the project's budget and that the committee was surprised by the reduction. They also show that at least some of the TC members didn't realize that they were cutting the budget. Unbelievable.
Aaron Leo (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Cindy.
Aaron Leo (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 05:30 PM
JR, I checked the Town Council minutes and adjusted the story. Thanks for pointing it out.
JR May 17, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Thanks, Ms. Katske. Then the second paragraph requires editing.
Aaron Leo (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 05:38 PM
It has been changed, JR.
Joan May 17, 2012 at 05:39 PM
JR May 17, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I had no doubt, Aaron. Is an explanation of what really happened forthcoming?
Aaron Leo (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 06:00 PM
What I know so far is Al told the BoFinance that he was asked his opinion but did not ask for the cut.
LovesTrumbull May 17, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Not only are the potholes a "huge" disaster to drive through, the plethara of parking space lines makes it so confusing I don't know how anyone knows where to park. I guess the first parked car in any row makes the rules.... And I agree with Ellen, the concession is an embarrassment for the town and the high school....
Gregg Basbagill May 17, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Clarification/correction. The Concession Stand brings in money for any games where it is used. Some years are better than other depending upon weather, but when I was the senior class adviser (Class of 2011), the Snack Shack pulled in over $12,000 for the senior class. Aside from the financial benefits, it is an opportunity for kids to learn about running a business (we work with them to make all decisions about menu, materials, pricing, etc). Lots of kids volunteer in there as a form of community service, but also service to their class. And plus the hot chocolate is delicious. There are a lot of benefits beyond the money, but even the money was understated in the article.
Aaron Leo (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Thanks Gregg!
Heather May 17, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Can we call for a special election of the Town Council and the BOF? I pay a lot of taxes and paid a lot for my house. My kids already have a substandard elementary facility. This was a vote against education and a slap to all the teachers and students at the high school.
louis May 18, 2012 at 01:35 AM
My goodness, Hammers was involved in this? Well that's what you get when you elect the wrong local yokel insider, nobodies mindin the store! And she runs a business, how do they turn a profit. They haven't even figured out where the front door is yet.
Tom Kelly May 18, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Let me repeat this so that everyone understands EXACTLY what happened. The Town Council established a Building Committee with town volunteers to oversee the Renovation of Trumbull High School. Without hearing even ONE word from the Building Committee or its Chairperson, the Republicans on the Town Council stripped $4 million from the renovation. When the Town Council DID hear from the Building Committee, they asked for the $4 million to be put back. The Town Council did NOT do so. Kristy W. says the Town Council took the vote after listening to Mr. Barbarotta. Well, Mr. Barbarotta and many others just said that the $4 million was needed. After listening to Mr. Barbarotta say this, Ms. Hammers said the renovation was "insane" and the Republicans on the BOF voted AGAINST the $4 million. Now, the Building Committee says they may not be able to complete the renovation due to lack of funding. Once again, just like with Charter Revision, and just like the Redistrictring Plan, we have a comedy of errors and ineffective leadership. This is what our town voted for.
Please Make Sense May 18, 2012 at 10:39 AM
Parking lot fixes will only get more expensive. And how do you renovate the entire stadium but leave a condemned snack shack. Now they will have no options for food sales at games.
Kristy Waizenegger May 18, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Tom, I expect more from you. As you know, Mr. B appeared in front of the council and based upon information he provided and questions he answered, the council voted. Mr. B is extremely knowledgable of the project and when he came in front of the council he provided accurate information and his opinion. It seems evident that you have an issue with the TC taking Mr. B at his word, I'm not sure why.
Tom Kelly May 18, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Kristy, my issue is not taking Mr. Barbarotta at his word, but it is that Council only waited to hear from him without ever asking to hear from Building Committee. Barbarotta is paid by the town. He gave his opinion. But the Chairman of the Building Committee had a different opinion, and it wasn't considered before that vote. That's not a spin or a restatement of history, that's exactly what's happened. But you say that Mr. Barbarotta is extremely knowledgeable of the project and I agree with that. As of RIGHT NOW, he has certainly advocated for restoring the $4 million to the Building Committee. He explicity recommended it to the BOF. And they did not agree to do so. In fact, Mrs. Hammers called it "insane" and made some other insinuations as well. I urge everyone to watch the last two BOF meetings on Channel 17/99. Mrs. LaFrance opined that the Building Committee would have to live within the $64 million. Basically, that means that the Town Council agreed with Mr. Barbarottw when he said the $4 million could be removed, but the BOF disagreed with him when he said it should be restored? Do Republicans think he's more knowledgeable about the project when he says the money can be removed than when he says it needs to be restored? Hopefully, your Town Council will put just as much faith in his opinion when you vote on this matter, and I hope there are 14 votes on the Council that will agree with Mr. Barbarotta and restore these funds. What do you think?
Martha Jankovic-Mark May 23, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Kristy, don't you remember how the republicans assured everyone that all the Building Committee had to do was to come to the Council to ask for additional funding if it was indeed needed? Since it is apparent that it is indeed needed, I expect we'll keep our word and vote to provide the additional funding.
Roy Fuchs May 24, 2012 at 02:24 AM
My recollection is that when Committee Chair Jim Nugent appeared before the town council and learned about the $4 million cut he looked as though he had been ambushed. Perhaps the First Selectman can play Sherlock Holmes here.
Roy Fuchs May 24, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Coming into this thread late, I may have missed something. But my takeaway from the conversation at a recent town council meeting about the concession stand was that the council wanted to buy a Cadillac but appropriated only enough money to buy a Chevrolet. Now why are we having a problem?
dave wilsoon May 24, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Great idea Al leave the parking lots the way they are. MOONSCAPES - and we actually PAY this guy to be our owners rep?? another Ray lackey
JR May 24, 2012 at 11:05 AM
Seems klw has signed off Patch. It happens once she has painted herself into a corner.
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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