The Board of Finance.
The Board of Finance meeting at Town Hall on Wednesday.

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — The Board of Finance on Wednesday approved a $6.8 million appropriation for the design of a new Long Lots Elementary School.

“We’re here asking for $6.8 million to go to the next phase of the project, which is the design phase,” school building committee Chairman Jay Keenan said. “We’re looking for monies to hire an architect; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers; fire alarms, sprinkler, civil site engineer; structural engineer as well as building envelope consultant, which would be hired by the town itself, not part of the design team. As well as mechanical and structural peer reviews.”

“We’re also looking for monies for a construction manager for the pre-construction portion of it,” Keenan said. “

Jay Keenan.
Jay Keenan

According to a brief breakdown of the spending, $6.2 million will be used to a design consultant, architect, engineers and other professionals; $190,000 will fund a construction manager; $175,000 will pay for a town project managers; $195,000 will be used for testing, studies and borings; and $40,000 will go toward printing and miscellaneous.

Committee member Don O’Day went over a list of similar school projects and their costs around the state.

 “We added, besides just Long Lots, 12 schools,” he said. “I think the prior one we only had five.”

Some finance board members said at a December discussion they wanted to review more project costs comparable to plans to construct a new Long Lots.

O’Day said more data was added to the list, including costs. “We’re not the highest, we’re not the lowest,” he said.

The cost per foot right now stands at $727, O’Day said. But, he noted, that does not include the possible $6 million additional cost for geothermal heating and cooling.

“That would put us at $777,” he said.

Finance board member Brian Stern was pleased to have the additional information. “This is terrific,” he said.

“If you don’t have this data, you can’t have a discussion. You can have an anecdotal discussion, you don’t have a data-driven one,” he said.

“I want to give a shout-out to Don and the committee for doing some really good work and for advancing this body of data immeasurably since the last time we spoke on this topic,” said board member Jeff Hammer. “Well done and mission accomplished.”

Board member Danielle Dobin had a few questions. One was about whether or not future LLSBC meetings would be recorded electronically. So far, they haven’t been.

“Recording your future meetings,” Dobin said. “I know this has come up a lot.”

“As a committee we have no problem if our meetings are recorded,” Keenan said. “But, honestly, we don’t control that.”

“So maybe we can figure out with all these fine people here tonight who does,” Dobin said. “So you have no objection to your meetings in the future being recorded so that those of us who can’t attend, or members of the public can’t attend, can listen in afterwards just so they can understand the reasoning?”

“We don’t have a problem,” Keenan said. “Sometimes it’s hard to hear work sessions when they’re being recorded. I think you get much more by coming to our meetings.”

The board’s vote to approve the Long Lots design money was unanimous. The money still must be approved by the Representative Town Meeting.

The finance board deferred action on funding requests for two other major initiatives until its next meeting: $630,000 in design money to upgrade Jesup Green and Imperial Avenue parking lots, and $110,000 to update conceptual plans for a new Fire Department headquarters to potentially include the Police Department and Emergency Medical Service.

Thane Grauel grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond for 36 years. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.