Options discussed for school office solution

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Sep. 29, 2011
Councilman Bob Zanlungo suggests a vote should come next November. Photos by Steve Smith.
Councilman Bob Zanlungo suggests a vote should come next November. Photos by Steve Smith.

At its meeting on Sept. 27, the Glastonbury Town Council opted for more options for the future location of the Board of Education offices. During the council’s Aug. 9 meeting, Superintendent Alan Bookman made the school district’s case for reconstruction of space at the former Academy School building, adjacent to Town Hall, for the purpose of housing the schools’ administrative offices and the special/alternative education programs.

The Board of Education had requested 4,800 square feet of space, so that the alternative programs for high school and middle school students would have easy access to administrators – something that has proven its worth, in past situations. Bookman also cited future anticipated growth of the programs. The offices and programs currently occupy 2,777 square feet of leased space at 628 Hebron Ave.

Town Manager Richard Johnson said the town already has capital improvement funding available for planning and cost estimation of the reconstruction at the Academy building, but the increase in needed space, it seems, may have a larger impact that originally thought.

“The concept is to demolish the current ‘D’ wing,” Johnson said, “and build a new ‘D’ wing… at that location. One of the concerns is that could translate into a project that could be a challenge from a cost standpoint.”

Johnson presented the council with the options of continuing with the D-wing reconstruction, continuing to use leased space, purchasing and renovating a commercial building, or the construction of a new building at a town-owned site, adding that the council could also “mix and match” the plans, in a variety of ways.

Councilman Chip Beckett said he thought it would be prudent to find the least expensive option that suits the needs.

“I think we have to be most cognizant of giving the Board of Ed. the facilities they need,” Beckett said. “But, I think we have to do it the cheapest way possible for the taxpayers.” Beckett said the current market conditions seem to indicate that commercial buildings are available at relatively low cost, and if there is one that would fit the schools, the town should consider renovation of it.

Councilman Tim Coon said he agreed with Beckett. “I think in today’s market, my feeling is to see what is out there,” Coon said. “I think we can really accomplish that, as far as what the Board needs and what the town needs. It certainly does pain me to be paying a lease. We don’t have anything to show for it.”

Councilman Bob Zanlungo recommended that if the project does need to go to referendum, the council should try to ensure that such a vote take place on election day of 2012, when a large number of voters would likely turn out for the presidential election. “I think you’d get the most input on whatever we decide,” he said.

Councilman Whit Osgood said that, while he’d like to see options kept open, he thought that if a new building were to be built, the town-owned site near Hebron Avenue School would be a possibility. “It’s a flat site,” he said. “It should be easy to build there.”

Osgood added that renting space can also be a cost-effective solution and should not be ruled out.

Johnson said a factor with the Academy site, versus building on another site, is that the location and needs would dictate a two-story building, whereas another location could accommodate a single-story structure.

Council Chair Susan Karp said the goal is to meet certain parameters, but she would like to see a more permanent solution, “where we know that this is taken care of, once and for all, and we have a home.”

Taking no formal action, the council discussed the options, keeping them all on the table for future discussion, and future study by town staff.

“It’s got to meet the needs of the Board of Education,” said Karp, “and the programs established now, and in the foreseeable future. I do think it’s important, and it’s going to be expected by our voters, that we present them with alternatives with reasonable cost estimates so that they can make the comparison.”

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