Westport town, schools plan to team up for capital projects

Photo of Katrina Koerting
File photo of construction work at Coleytown Middle School.

File photo of construction work at Coleytown Middle School.

Jarret Liotta / For Hearst Connecticut Media / Jarret Liotta

WESTPORT — The school district and town are looking to partner even more on capital projects.

The latest step comes with support from the town for the schools’ idea to hire an outside firm as a capital program manager and oversee the district’s $100 million maintenance plan.

First Selectman Jim Marpe said the move made sense, especially since about 90 percent of town-owned building square footage is used for public education.

The firm, he said, could help the town and schools make sure they don’t miss out on state reimbursements and are tackling projects in the right sequence.

“The taxpayers have invested in these buildings and we’re using tax payer money to make sure they’re maintained and improved where appropriate,” Marpe said at a recent school board meeting.

He said the town has been setting money aside in budgets to look at town and school facilities and that that money could be used to cover the cost of the firm initially.

“I think it will work,” Marpe said. “Let’s try it. We can refine it over time.”

A cost hasn’t been determined but previous estimates put it between $50,000 and $100,000.

The district plans to bid out the services at the end of the month.

Marpe said there might even be some overlap in expertise and the firm could help out with some town projects, too.

The town and schools also plan to partner on other joint projects, leveraging the expertise in the town’s public works department and the pricing advantage they could get if similar projects were grouped together, such as paving.

“That sets a model for other projects,” Marpe said.

Superintendent Thomas Scarice said the district hasn’t discussed specific projects yet.

“We would have to look into the actual 10-year maintenance plan,” he said.

The firm could also help find other possible combined projects.

Some school board members suggested combining health care, with both the town and schools having the ability to go to a shared company on their own.

“I’m looking forward to this collaboration,” Marpe said. “I’m very, very optimistic it will reap benefits.”

School board members also said they welcomed the partnership.

“I’m very pleased with the level of collaboration with the town and that we’re all moving forward together on the same page,” said school board chairwoman Candice Savin.