Plainfield superintendent excited about upgrades

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Plainfield - posted Mon., Jan. 13, 2014

Plainfield Superintendent Ken DiPietro discussed plans for making $4 million in facilities upgrades with the Board of Education during its meeting on Jan. 8. The voters’ authorization and state reimbursement of 75.7-percent is a sure thing. What DiPietro and First Selectman Paul Sweet need to find out is whether the town can split the project in parts so the town can start receiving reimbursement earlier.

“The question is, does the state of Connecticut require us to write the full $4 million to be one project, or will they allow us to break it into two projects,” DiPietro said. If the former, all work would have to be complete before the town would start to see reimbursement. If Plainfield can break the project down, they could see reimbursement coming in after they file paperwork on its completion. That could be as early as 2016, according to DiPietro.

The state reimbursement money will be used to cover long term sustainable improvements such as roof replacements, driveways, walkways and ADA compliance projects. It doesn’t reimburse computers or desks and chairs. “They won’t make the residents of Connecticut pay a 20-year bond for something that has a lifespan of five years,” DiPietro said.

The $4 million will cover five projects at six school district buildings. Roofs need repair at Plainfield Central, Memorial, Shepard Hill Elementary and Moosup Elementary schools.  “I can’t finish all four roofs at once because I can’t shut down all five schools and start tearing roofs off,” DiPietro said. “It’s impossible.”

“Everything is about timing,” Sweet said. He’d like to get some work done by springtime when the General Assembly passes a budget. Once that happens, the town will see its share of reimbursement start. “When we talk about schedules, everything is based on completion,” he said.

A separate grant for $290,000 will be used to upgrade technology in the district. That figure is based on an estimate of $360,000 to make Plainfield schools ready for the new state assessments and common core curriculum. Because Plainfield is in a 75-percent reimbursement district, the town will have to pay about $90,000 on technologically-appropriate expenditures. The schools will be wireless because the new assessments require students to take the tests on computers. “We aren’t charging any of that to the taxpayer,” DiPietro said. “We won’t put that on the bond.”

Sweet estimates that taxpayers will see no more than a .3 mil increase. “We are retiring debt as we are adding new debt,” he said. Rates might be up in the first three years, but after that he expects it to be a wash.

The project is part of an eight-year plan for upgrading the town’s educational facilities, according to DiPietro. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for our community to have state-released money to upgrade our schools,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for Plainfield.”

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