Potential Coleytown delay could push up costs
WESTPORT — With news that Coleytown Middle School may not reopen in time for the 2020-21 school year, the town may know sooner rather than later how this could affect costs.
This comes after an update by CMS Building Committee Chairman Donald O’Day revealed the scope of the renovation and reconstruction work will be greater than the firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., previously indicated.
Earlier this week, O’Day said the firm has recommended the entire shell of the building be “re-clad.”
“However, the big question that is still unanswered is whether or not we will be able to have enough done to safely open Coleytown Middle Schoool in August of 2020,” O’Day said.
He added that while costs associated with doing additional fixes are not currently known, his committee is expecting a cost estimate by June 7. This could increase the cost of a project already estimated to be in the range of $10 million to $20 million.
O’Day said they were working diligently to ensure everything necessary is done so students and staff can have an appropriate and healthy school to return to.
“The days of doing it piecemeal and just enough to get by are over,” he said. “We are going to do this right.”
Coleytown PTA Co-Chair Lee Goldstein said she was grateful the building committee was taking the work serious and making sure it was done right.
“I look forward to seeing the full report and now two reputable firms have given their opinions,” she said.
The Representative Town Meeting Finance and Education commitees discussed the recent news of Coleytown’s progress at their joint meeting Wednesday night.
“It is not practical to assume that everything will be done by August 2020,” Board of Education Chairman Mark Mathias said. “That doesn’t mean all bets are off.”
Despite this, Mathias said, they are continuing to work with the various organizations in assessing different options to stay on schedule. For example, he posed the question if it was necessary for the cladding of the building to be entirely completed before students are let back in.
“There are parts of the building we understand are more susceptible to water incursion, so we would do those first. Then there are parts that aren’t as susceptible, the gymnaisum for example, which can be done later,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out what needs to be done to be able to get kids in school by August 2020.”
Both committees also unanimously approved a special appropriation of $267,658 for mold remediation, reconstruction and other services for Coleytown up to Dec. 31, 2018. Part of this appropriation included a $20,386 review of published air-quality reports paid to the legal firm of Shipman & Goodwinn LLP. Matthias said this was a component of understanding how everything unfolded.
“We’re really trying to look at all the information that’s been presented to the board and provide it in a cohesive document,” he said. “We don’t know exactly where the air quality issues arise from.”
The assessment of the various air quality reports previously completed and made public could help in solving this, he added.
The committees also unanimously approved an appropriation iof $326,950 for renovations to Bedford Middle School for additional classroom space and offices. Currently, students from Coleytown are attending Bedford Middle School.
Mathias said the work would have long term value for Bedford. “In fact the Board of Finance indicated they want to capitalize this,” he said. “They view it as a long-term, physical structure addition.”
Mathias said his board will have a variety of options to discuss, but first they must know the timeline they’re working with.
“When we say we’re not going to be ready August 2020, we have to know what does that miss mean,” he said. “Is it a week? Is it a month? We need to know what it looks like.”
One of the difficulties is finding out what could be done to make the building safe for everyone, he added.
“I think there’s still a fairly high hope that we will be able to safely occupy that building by August 2020,” Mathias said. “I don’t yet know what that looks like. Nobody does, but that’s one of the challenges.”
The CMS Building Committee will provide an update at the Board of Education’s meeting on June 3.
Includes previous reporting by Jarret Liotta; firstname.lastname@example.org