West Hartford Superintendent Proposes $10.85 Million Capital Improvement Program

Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The West Hartford Board of Education will begin its review of the Capital Improvement Plan proposed by Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore on Tuesday night.

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Board of Education received a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for 2017-18 with a proposed $10,850,000 to be used for maintenance and construction projects on school buildings.

Included in the CIP is $4.45 million for “recurring projects,” primarily routine maintenance that is performed on the existing infrastructure.

The remaining $6.4 million is for the second half of the funding for construction of new science labs at Hall High School. The first half of the funding was approved in last year’s CIP. Although approximately 40 percent of the cost of the new labs will be reimbursed by the state, procedurally the entire amount must be included in the CIP.

Some of the projects to be funded by the 2017-18 CIP include flooring replacement and playground equipment replacement at Braeburn; painting at Bugbee; turf replacement and new stage lighting at Conard; parking lot renovation at Duffy; replacement of a portion of the roof, track resurfacing, and masonry repairs at Hall; flooring replacement at King Philip; roof replacement at Morley; new auditorium seating at Norfeldt; painting and office reconfiguration at Sedgwick; exterior door replacement at Webster Hill; playground replacement at Whiting Lane; and painting at Wolcott.

Superintendent Tom Moore said that the CIP represents a significant investment that the town makes to the buildings. They are necessary to maintain the useful lives of the buildings, but many of the investments – like new roofs and boilers – are not visible. “The problem is that these are some of most expensive expenditures but people don’t see the expenditures,” Moore said.

Board member Mark Zydanowicz questioned the need for some of the expenditures such as the turf replacement at Conard. Director of Plant & Facilities Bob Palmer said that the turf is “like a carpet” and is ripping in places. The infill has already been replaced, but the turf has reached its life expectancy, he said. The track at Conard was recently replaced but in that situation it was because the pavement underneath the surface had failed and was cracking, creating an uneven and dangerous surface for those using it.

Board Vice Chair Cheryl Greenberg asked which of the projects are required to bring buildings up to code. Assistant Superintendent Andy Morrow said that replacing classroom carpeting with up-to-date flooring is a health and safety issue. Reconfiguring the Sedgwick Middle School office, which will be moved to the ADA entrance on the west side of the school near the multi-purpose room, is also a safety and security consideration. The office relocation will allow for the construction of a “mantrap” set of double doors.

In addition to specific recommendations for 2017-18, the CIP also includes a plan for the following 11 years, with specific projects outlined for the near term and a more general outline for the future. It’s a “right mix of maintenance and long-term projects,” Morrow told the Board of Education.

After 2017-18, the CIP for the next several years is currently projected to be less than $5 million, with only recurring projects in the plan. Director of Finance and Planning Chip Ward said that boiler and heating system replacements should not be required in the next several years.

However, “a very large number for air conditioning” has been included in the CIP beginning in 2020-21, Ward said.

“Adapting modern ventilation and air conditioning to these buildings is complicated and very expensive,” Palmer told the Board. The project will be competing for funding with roads and other town infrastructure, and there is no short-term funding available. It’s not just about air conditioning, Palmer said, but about allowing for fresh air flow which is considered very important in the classroom.

According to Ward, it will cost an estimated $4.5 million per school to upgrade the ventilation system and add air conditioning. The secondary schools are currently air conditioned, but there are nine elementary buildings that do not have air conditioning. The plan would be to do the work at one school each year.

The proposed CIP will be reviewed by the Board and adopted at its Feb. 7 meeting, then forwarded to the town manager to be incorporated into the budget that will be sent to the Town Council. The Town Council will adopt the 2017-18 budget on April 25.

The complete and detailed CIP can be found on the West Hartford Public School’s website.

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