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CT Construction Digest Thursday November 10, 2022

Norwich school advocates ready to start work on $385 million reconstruction project

Norwich ― Norwich voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an overhaul of city schools by a vote of 5,600-3,660 and proponents now hope the transformation goes well beyond the aging buildings.

The measure will consolidate seven elementary schools into four new schools to be built on the grounds of the John B. Stanton, Moriarty and Uncas schools and the former site of the Greeneville School. The Teachers Memorial Global Studies Magnet Middle School either will be renovated or replaced, and the Samuel Huntington School is slated to become the adult education center and school administrative offices.

On Tuesday, Norwich NAACP youth council members Ibnath Chowdhury, and Cathleen Mai, both 10th graders at Norwich Free Academy, spent four hours of their day off from school holding “vote yes” signs at the Stanton School polling place.

“We’re advocating for what we believe in,” Chowdury said, “for what our organization believes in.”

“This can benefit our community as a whole,” Mai added.

NAACP President Shiela Hayes said youth council members were “so excited” to take a leadership role in promoting the referendum.

“This was an issue they were passionate about,” Hayes said. “Many of them attended Norwich Public Schools and have younger siblings in the schools.”

NAACP adult and youth members are part of the School Equity Committee working to ensure equal access to education for all students. Hayes said that role will continue with the school project, especially with a new Greeneville school. The former Greeneville School in the ethnically diverse neighborhood had lagged behind other city schools in terms of its deteriorating conditions and offerings for students before it was closed and torn down.

“That was part of the excitement with the students,” Hayes said. “They were able to participate with the committee on the groundwork on equity in our schools.”

As poll results signaled approval of the project late Tuesday, School Building Committee Chairman Mark Bettencourt started planning the next steps for the project beginning with a committee meeting Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The city will put out a request for proposals for one or more architects and general contractors for the multi-phase project. Bettencourt already has discussed with state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague the possibility of boosting state reimbursement for the school project. Osten was re-elected Tuesday night.

Although the ballot question asked voters to approve a $385 million bond for the work , the city’s anticipated costs ranges from $97 million to $153 million, depending on state reimbursement.

The city faced spending about $225 million, with no state reimbursement, just to repair the old schools if the vote failed.

Osten said Wednesday she will work with newly-elected Norwich state Rep. Derell Wilson and re-elected Reps. Kevin Ryan and Doug Dubitsky on legislation to raise Norwich’s reimbursement as a distressed municipality.

Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow said she felt “very, very relieved” that the project passed. In her three years in Norwich, Stringfellow faced three emergency boiler failures, various floods and roof leaks and other structural emergencies, with no room in other schools to relocate students if problems could not be fixed immediately.

“I never worked in a district where there could not possibly be a contingency plan, because of lack of space,” she said.

Stringfellow sent a two-page letter to parents and staff Wednesday informing them of the vote and providing an overview and promising regular updates of the project.

Norwich Board of Education Chairman Robert Aldi said he “so elated” voters approved the project by a substantial margin.

“It’s good for the kids, the faculty and the staff,” Aldi said, “and I would argue it’s good for the entire city. Once these schools are built, it’s just going to be an added attraction to the city for families looking to move in, to know that the schools will be up to date, and have structures that will take care of all the needs of all the students.”

The Board of Education has three members on the School Building Committee – Democrat Mark Kulos and Republicans Aaron “Al” Daniels and Christine Distasio, along with Stringfellow and school Business Administrator Robert Sirpenski as ex-officio members.

Aldi said school officials will enlist the expertise of Norwich Public Utilities to ensure the buildings have the highest possible energy efficiencies and will work with city police on school safety measures.

“I am sure there will be two or three liaisons from NPU, as well as from NPD on school safety and the Uncas Health District,” Aldi said. “It’s a huge conglomeration. This is going to be lasting 40, 50, 70 years.”

62-unit mixed-income development in Farmington gets greenlight

Developer Geoffrey Sager has received zoning approval to construct a 62-unit mixed-income development in Farmington following a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission Monday night.

Plans show two buildings, one with 36 units and another with 29 units. The property at 62 South Road is a 2.9-acre site located between Middle and Munson roads. 

Eighty-percent of the units will be designated as affordable housing under State Statute  8-30g, including 15 units reserved for Favarh clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

There will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The buildings will have community areas, package rooms, mail kiosks, two private offices, accessible laundry and outdoor amenities.

A parking lot is also proposed as part of the plan.

The applicants, Sager Development and an affiliate, 80 South Road LLC, are seeking site plan approval and an amendment to the zoning regulations changing the property from the R-40 residential zone to the South Road Opportunity Zone.

Sager is the principal of Sager Development and Metro Realty Group, which has received town approvals to build 146 units on a property near UConn Health at 402 Farmington Ave.

Cheshire school construction vote approved by wide margin 


CHESHIRE – Cheshire voters Tuesday approved the largest expenditure in town history — a $166.6 million proposal to rebuild and modernize several public schools. 

Unofficial results at 10:05 p.m. Tuesday indicate the measure passed 58.7 to 41.3%. The plan would add $406 annually to the average taxpayer’s bill. 

“Our community in whole is very supportive of education and they saw the members of the Town Council and member of the Board of Education… unanimously supported this project,” said Dr. Jeffrey Solan, superintendent of schools. “It really spoke to how important education is in this community.”

“You don’t get those kinds of results unless you use the system the right way and use the data,” said Matt Colehour, chair of Support CPS, which has advocated for the modernization “People move to Cheshire to the school system. I’m not surprised. We need the investment. Our town officials did it the right way and voters responded.”

Town officials say the school modernization project is necessary to respond to increasing enrollment and aging school buildings. The plan would add $406 annually to the average taxpayer’s bill.

Because the state will reimburse the town 50% of the construction costs, the net cost to taxpayers would be $94.6 million, officials say.

Under the plan, approved by the Town Council earlier this year, Cheshire would build two new elementary schools to replace Chapman and Norton Elementary Schools. Darcey, Norton and Chapman Schools would be demolished, and the town would build a new elementary school on the current Norton property. A second new elementary school to replace Darcy and Chapman would be built on property the town now owns off Marion and Jarvis roads.

Construction is projected to begin in 2026. 

School officials say K-12 enrollment is expected to increase by 25% by 2032. Cheshire’s schools are between 50 to 109 years old.