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Residents approve $1.2 million for new Deans Mill roof

STONINGTON — Amy Hambly has been on a crusade to make sure her daughter and every other student at Deans Mill Elementary School get a reliable roof over their heads during the school day.

On Tuesday night, she and school officials got the vote they’ve been waiting for.

Dozens of residents voted to spend $1.2 million to replace the leaky roof at Deans Mill School, which continues to actively leak over the cafeteria, library media center, gym, office and an instructional wing.

The money includes a contingency of $185,000 and will not affect the tax rate.

“I’m glad it’s finally over,” Hambly said after the unanimous vote at Stonington High School drew applause. “I feel like it’s been a long road since I was in the school in October and first noticed the leaks.”

For months, Hambly, a school volunteer, carried a large binder of reports and photos of the school’s leaky roof.

She’s toured trouble spots, and said she dragged her second-grader to numerous town meetings to educate herself on the process and what it would take to secure the money to fix the roof.

“It wasn’t until I was at a meeting in December in the library that I saw how really bad it was,” Hambly said. “Bookshelves were damaged and so was a new laminator. It smelled. That’s when I decided I was going to find out what was going on.”

Bill King, the district’s operations and business manager, said work on the roof should begin over the summer and be completed by the time school starts in the fall.

“The leaks were going on periodically before me,” said King, who has been with the district for eight years. “Now it will be fixed once and for all.”

The work, originally scheduled to begin in April on the library media center portion of the roof, will be delayed because the district is pursuing partial reimbursement from the state for the project. Superintendent Van W. Riley said the reimbursement could be up to $300,000.

Right now, leak tents that have been set up around the school are collecting water. The water drains into buckets or trash cans.

“The school community is going to be very pleased (about) the action the community took to fully fund the roof,” Principal Doug Hammel said.

The Board of Finance approved the expenditure of the $1.2 million at a meeting in February. The money will come from the town’s undesignated fund balance, also known as the rainy day fund, which has nearly $11.8 million.

“There didn’t seem to be any opposition and there was a good turnout,” resident James Conlan said of Tuesday’s special town meeting. “It’s a good move for the school.”

The new roof system will include a required 25-year full warranty so any future issues will be taken care of at no cost.

“What’s really cool is the entire roof is going to get fixed,” Hambly said. “Thank goodness. I’m glad (residents) understand this is what needs to be done.”

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