A proposal to bond up to $300,000 to begin planning for upgrades to the remains in a City Council committee due to uncertainty over plans for the future of the school.
The Finance Committee took no action on an item to appropriate the sum for “planning, design, construction, repairs and modifications” at the school. The council tabled the matter, as well as a decision on whether to have Mayor Daryl Finizio’s administration issue a request for proposals for architectural and engineering services at the school.
Council President Michael Passero, who chairs the committee, said an architectural firm is needed to begin the process. He said the plans presented to the council and Board of Education have been made pro bono by architects working for on other projects.
“I think it’s incumbent on us to officially start the process, recognizing that it will officially lead to a school construction process within the next year, and hopefully sooner than that,” said Passero.
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The high school, which was built in 1970, has a including violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, an aging heating system, and an unusable swimming pool. The council has been presented with three options:
- Addressing only building code and ADA issues at an estimated cost of $29 million
- “Renovating as new” to bring the building up to modern codes at an estimated cost of $83 million, with some costs reimbursable
- Constructing a new high school at an estimated cost of $83.9 million, with some costs reimbursable.
Finance Director Jeff Smith said the primary expenditure of the $300,000 bond would be hiring an architectural firm to work with council and Board of Education committees on the issue. Smith said this is a first step toward determining which option the city should take.
“Before you go out and spend $10 million or $100 million, you really have to know what to spend it on,” he said.
Councilor Adam Sprecace said he was reticent about committing the money in part due to the uncertainty over which option should be taken for renovating the high school. He was also concerned with a , a special master assigned to the district by the Connecticut Department of Education. Adamowski said on Thursday that the schools cannot be sustained at the funding levels allocated by the council in recent years. Sprecace said this warning raises the possibility that the state will take over or shut down the schools.
“I don’t know that bonding this money now without knowing his full assessment of New London Public Schools is prudent,” he said.
Councilor John Maynard said he was also concerned with bonding due to Adamowski’s warning.
“Obviously we can’t control what he does with the school system,” said Maynard. “So that’s my fear, is bonding without needing to bond.”
Passero said the issue will be returned to its next meeting on Sept. 4. He said he considers the bond a major expenditure, but one that is needed to begin the process of addressing the issues. He said the bond can also be included in the reimbursable expenses of the high school renovations.
Passero also said he was disappointed with Adamowski’s statement, saying he is trying to set up a meeting with the special master.
“He hasn’t shown himself to be very interested in the will of the people of New London, or his willingness to work with us,” he said.