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Stonington finance board getting the bill for more school repairs

STONINGTON — Last week Stonington schools Superintendent Van Riley emailed district parents a West Broad Street School update detailing the plan to immediately repair two ceilings in the 115-year-old building.

While no funds were allocated in the current year’s budget for such repairs, there was little time to waste, he said, as the work needed to be done in time for school in August. And with potential asbestos abatement likely, the site would be off-limits for days, even weeks.

Riley gave a rough cost estimate of $70,000 to $100,000 for the job, which involves plaster removal, possible structural repairs, and new gypsum on the two ceilings. Currently one ceiling has been repaired, according to Bill King, the school system’s business manager.

The memo to parents said that the district would “approach the Board of Finance for appropriate reimbursement.”

“lf we decided to go through the typical process of obtaining funding first, we would not be able to complete the necessary work in time for the beginning of school,” Riley wrote. “I am confident that the Board of Finance will understand the importance of this work and will provide the required funding.”

King was at the Board of Finance meeting on Wednesday but was told he did not have sufficient documentation and the matter would be tabled until the next meeting. King said he didn’t think the Board of Education anticipated that the finance board would act on Wednesday without any supporting documents.

“The Board of Education is willing to spend the funds out of their operating budget with the hope, expectation that the Board of Finance would cover their costs. This is a similar process to what was done with the WBSS sprinkler system,” King said Thursday. He said that while he does not yet have estimates for abatement and construction work, the school budget “can sustain the impact temporarily, but we would have to take other measures” if the finance board denied the request.

Finance board member Dudley R. Wheeler questioned the wisdom of further costly repairs on the century-old school in Pawcatuck.

“I have a question on this whole mess. You’re going to go spend $100,000 or more on this. I just wish the BOE would look at portable classrooms.” He said that the school is going to shut down, and he questioned spending so much on a building “that’s going to be useless in a few years.” He urged the school board to take at look at the situation.

Earlier this year, a section of ceiling fell, and while no one was hurt, an inspection by town officials also found sagging ceiling tiles in two classrooms on the top floor of the school. Riley closed that floor pending the repairs. In the past few years, more than $80,000 in emergency repairs have been made at the school. Meanwhile, the K-12 School Building Committee is wrestling with plans for possible West Vine Street School expansion to make room for the K-4 children at West Broad Street.

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