Town’s financiers weigh in on Coleytown costs
WESTPORT — The Board of Finance members showed some support for an estimated $32 million renovation of Coleytown Middle School, but stressed due diligence in examining costs, ramifications and more.
At a joint meeting with the Board of Education Thursday, BOF members and leadership from the Representative Town Committee listened to a presentation by CMS Building Committee Chairman Don O’Day.
To maintain the timeline, O’Day said town officials needed to be concise and confident in their decision making.
“We can definitely control the inability to make a decision,” he said. “The one thing that we can stop is over contemplating what we’re doing.”
BOF Chairman Brian Stern said the number was a serious amount of money for the town.
“We’ve got to come clean on what it means financially to the town,” he said. “We need to look at other projects that the town may be thinking about. We need to lay that out for the town.”
Stern also asked if a tour could be arranged for members of his board and the RTM to see examples of how the cladding of the building will look.
“I think it’s important before someone builds a house to have some notion of what it looks like before you moved in,” he said.
RTM Moderator Velma Heller said the presentation represented a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Let’s move this thing forward and get behind it,” she said.
BOF member Lee Carney said it was important to “stop the bleeding” and make a decision. “The community has really been dispersed over this issue.”
Finance board member James Westphal said it was important everyone looked at all the facts surrounding any possible decision. He also asked that opposing views be fairly vetted, noting the town would be “essentially” increasing its budget by 1 percent over each of the next 20 years.
“I don’t think we have a choice here, but I don’t think we take this decision in isolation of other financial fiscal matters going on around town,” he said.
BOF members also asked to see cost estimates for building a wing onto Bedford Middle School.
“I think the financially responsible thing to do is consider all options,” member Sheri Gordon said.
Stern said his dream for the process is that the project receives full support of the community, adding it’s important to get kids and their parents back into a system.
“One of the things I think is hugely important is that we have schools that define our community,” Stern said. “Coleytown does define the community. People live in that community and friendships are fostered in that community.”
Stern invited residents to comment on the subject at the Board of Finance’s next meeting on Monday.