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Fairfield School Board Requests $2M for Capital Projects

Here's a breakdown of the requests, which will be voted on by the Board of Finance on Tuesday.

The Board of Education is requesting $2 million in funds for capital projects, which will be voted on by the Board of Finance Tuesday night.

The projects included six school-specific plans and one system-wide proposal. Here’s a breakdown of the projects and the estimated costs associated with each one:

School Project Estimated Cost Dwight Elementary Replace two 1962 boilers $294,000 Jennings Elementary Bathroon Renovations: Phase II $131,250 Osborn Hill Elementary Window Replacement $791,400 Tomlinson Middle Front façade cornice work $250,000 Tomlinson Middle Replace flooring systetms in 8 classrooms $133,350 Tomlinson Middle Traffic Project $150,000 System wide Remove existing underground tanks at Dwight, Jennings, N. Stratfield, Osborn Hill, Riverfield, & Sherman schools; replace with aboveground tanks. Remove existing undergound tanks at Fairfield Warde & Fairfield Ludlowe High Schools; replace with aboveground tanks.  $250,000   Total $2,000,000

Dwight Elementary School: Replace Two 1962 Boilers

The Dwight boilers are currently the oldest boilers in use in the Fairfield school system, according to the district’s Director of Operations Tom Cullen. In the board’s request for funding, the boilers are described as in poor condition and “well into their useful life.” This project was originally requested last year but was not funded by the RTM.

The estimated cost of the project covers everything from removal and demolition of the old boilers, asbestos abatement, the new boilers and their installation. The new boilers will consist of one dual fuel (oil and gas) and one gas boiler, Cullen said.

“We wouldn’t want to have an educational facility that is only fueled by one source,” Cullen told the boards of Finance and Selectmen at Thursday’s budget hearing. If there’s an issue with one source -- for example, a gas line cut -- “the school would have to shut down,” Cullen said.

Selectman Jim Walsh pointed out that it “looks like gas is going to be cheaper than oil for the next 15 years.”

Jennings Elementary School Bathroom Renovations: Phase II

The Board of Education requested $250,000 last year to completely renovate all of the Jennings School bathrooms. The RTM approved $125,000 for the project, as members who had toured the bathrooms felt that only the sinks in the bathrooms needed to be renovated and the board did not justify funding complete renovations.

But rather than funding restoration for just the sinks, the funds went toward completely renovating half of the bathrooms, and now the other half is in need of restoration. The bathrooms have not been renovated since they were built in 1967, according to the funding request.

Now the board is requesting $131,250 to complete the project, which brings the renovation project’s total cost to $270,011. Superintendent Dr. David Title told the boards of Finance and Selectmen that the cost could be closer to the original $250,000 request had the work been completed in one year with the original requested funds.

David Becker, RTM R-1, said during public comment that part of the reason the RTM slashed the Jennings bathroom funding request in 2011 was the pressure to vote on the item in one night.

Tom McCarthy, RTM R-8 agreed and added that the board did not “make its case for the entire renovation project.”

The requested funds would cover new plumbing fixtures and repair parts for the bathrooms, Cullen said. According to the request, upgrading the bathrooms will reduce long-range maintenance costs.

The project, along with the renovations of several other schools’ bathrooms, is included in the Fairfield Public Schools Facilities Plan 2011-2015.

Osborn Hill Elementary School Window Replacements

Though Osborn Hill was renovated in 1996, the windows have not been updated since the school was built in 1958 and an addition was constructed in 1969, Cullen said.

The existing single-pane windows will be replaced by energy-efficient double-pane windows. Non-insulated doors will also be replaced with insulated ones, Cullen said. The new windows would result in savings by lowering the schools’ energy consumption, according to the request for funding, and should maintain a useful life of 50-plus years.

Alan Lipman, principal of Osborn Hill School, spoke on behalf of the project before the boards of Finance and Selectmen. He said the kindergarten classrooms are particularly drafty due to the single-pane windows and that children have to wear their coats during class on cold days.

He added that about 80 percent of the windows in the school don’t open properly, and the windows are so old that it’s hard to find parts to repair them or their hinges.

Tomlinson Middle School Front Façade Cornice Work

While members of the Board of Finance felt the cost estimate for this work seemed high, Cullen said there are seven sets of doors to consider. “The fact that the building is so large, scaffolding will be needed. You’re going to be dealing with some abatement,” he said.

The request for funding was denied last year by the RTM, but was requested again this year due to the “continued deterioration” of the wood and paint, according to the written request. Some of the doors no longer close properly, the request states.

“It’s dreadful and it needs to be done,” Title said. “You can defer it, but it will need to be done.”

Cullen added that the type of doors needed for the school are expensive. “I think it’s a good number,” he said of the $250,000 funding request. 

Tomlinson Middle School Floor Tile Replacement

Though the middle school was renovated in 2007, the floor systems in eight classrooms need to go through proper asbestos abatement. New vinyl composite tile was laid over the vinyl asbestos tile, which covers and old wooden base and has resulted in loose and broken tiles, according to the funding request.

“This is a safety concern,” Title said. The project would remove asbestos in the classrooms and eliminate floor problems and safety concerns caused by broken tiles, according to the written request.

Tomlinson Traffic Project

Severe congestion in the pickup/drop-off areas has been plaguing Tomlinson Middle School for some time now.

“This is an issue that isn’t going to go away even after grandfathering is done,” Title said. He explained that traffic was bad prior to the grandfathering decision, too.”

Tomlinson’s principal Connee Dawson said that currently the school uses 20 buses; that number will be reduced to about 15 or 16 buses after grandfathering has run its course.

Thus a solution to the congestion, which, according to Title, causes a lot of safety issues, is a request for the coming budget. The project was approved by the Police Commission and it will add more roadway for parents to pick up and drop off children, separating the bus and car traffic.

System-wide Removal of Underground Fuel Tanks

The state has mandated that underground fuel tanks be removed and replaced by aboveground tanks. Not completing this project could result in fines from the state and potential oil leaks and resulting environmental damage.

Cullen said that should this request be approved and the work completed, “the tank projects will be done for a while.”

Eleanor Bruce February 24, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Board of Finance should not increase ouir taxes, instead should lay off the extra people we have in some area as policemen, firefighters, town employees and sell the police helicopter.
iamspartacus February 24, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Ms. Bruce, you are ignorant to facts which makes your opinion worthless, the police don't have a helicopter;therefor; no money can be saved by selling it.
overtaxed April 05, 2012 at 01:06 AM
We are going to be the next Bridgeport if the town does not reduce spending. Not one of our officials have any back bone to stop the spending. Tax Tax Tax Wake up people. These town officials could not run a popcorn stand with out losing money. For all the money we spend on Education the schools are not even up to par with other affluent towns.

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