Westport seeks $6M Coleytown reimbursement from state

WESTPORT — The school district is looking to recover $6 million in Coleytown Middle School renovation costs through a state grant.

At the onset of the $32 million project, it was unclear if the town would seek reimbursement, Westport Public Schools’ chief financial officer Elio Longo said. But now, the CMS Building Committee is preparing a grant application, which the Representative Town Meeting approved Tuesday.

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Building Committee Chairman Don O’Day noted no strings were attached to the grant, a concern that previously delayed the town moving forward in seeking reimbursement.

“There’s no strings attached, but it has to be done in Hartford’s way,” O’Day said of the application process.

The RTM’s approval also authorizes the Building Committee to prepare schematic drawings for Coleytown, another necessary component in having the state grant approved.

In other business, the RTM unanimously voted to name the Staples High School running track as the Laddie Lawrence Track to honor the tenured coach. The motion was put forward by member Andrew Colabella, who alongside fellow Westport resident Don Bergmann came up with the proposal earlier this year.

“For the last 54 years, he’s been coaching thousands and thousands of kids,” Colabella said, adding Lawrence’s impact as a coach extends beyond his athletic resume. “This is a guy who was not only born in Westport, but found a way to come back and do what he loves. That’s why I see him as a role model.”

Second Selectwoman Jen Tooker echoed Colabella’s sentiments, and said renaming the track was an excellent way to honor Lawrence’s legacy.

“While Laddie’s coaching record and his tenure is reason enough, his real success has come in the hundreds and hundreds or thousands and thousands of young adults he has positively influenced,” Tooker said. “This is, quite frankly, why Westporters have talked about Laddie for decades and again why they will continue to talk about him for decades to come.”

RTM member Lou Mall also spoke highly of Lawrence and his impact on numerous Westporters.

“You name things after people who deserved to be so honored,” he said. “That’s why we’re going to name this track Laddie Lawrence Track.”