Council OKs Hiring Consultants to Make WHS Green
WETHERSFIELD - The Wethersfield High School renovation project will see the addition of some new components in the form of a green building design being drawn up with the intention of obtaining a CL&P energy grant, a new security system, and a commercial culinary station for home economics classes.

       The Town Council unanimously approved to allow $43,750 of already budgeted project funds to allow the architectural design team to hire consultants to assist in planning for these portions of the renovation last Monday, Nov. 19.

       “It’s all in the bottom line,” Town Engineer Mike Turner said after the meeting. “It was just a matter of if the town hired the consultants or the architects did.”

       The money was set aside in anticipation that changes to the project’s design would be made, Turner said at the meeting.

       It will cost the architectural team $25,000 to bring in consultants to help design a security system that will include surveillance cameras, Turner said. The expenditures discussed at the meeting were strictly dealing with the planning phase, but the construction budget already sets aside $346,000 for the installment of the new equipment, he said.

       Wethersfield is also vying for a CL&P grant that will provide reimbursements based on the amount of money over 21 percent of the high school’s electric bill that can be saved. The council approved the use of $6,000 in budgeted funds for the purchase of a computer system that will project the amount of energy savings. The “green model” the architects develop will determine whether or not the town receives the grant, Turner said.

       Turner said CL&P will not know what the high school’s energy savings will actually be, since the grant will be given out based on the model’s projections, before the actual results are seen.

       “It’s costing the engineer $6,000 just to put the information into the model,” Turner said. “It’s a pretty sophisticated model.”

       The CL&P grant is structured to reward eligible applicants based on the amount of money they save that is over a minimum of 21 percent of their electric bill. Savings at 25 percent, for example, will provide 75 cents per square foot of the building’s area. At 30 percent, Wethersfield would see $1.50 per square foot.

       “That could be over $200,000,” Turner said of the 25 percent bracket. “That’s a lot of money.”

       Energy conservation has been a large part of the discussion on a project that will include 220 geothermal wells, a green roof equipped with solar panels and a science curriculum tailored to educate students on environment-friendly measures.

       The council also approved $12,750 for the planning of a home economics classroom upgrade. The curriculum is being revamped to provide students with instruction in commercial culinary arts, such as hotel and restaurant management.

       “They really want to upgrade that, so they need all new equipment,” Turner said.

       With new equipment also comes new building and fire regulations to adhere to and the funds approved at last Monday’s council meeting will allow the architectural team to bring in consultants to advise on that.

       Town Manager Jeff Bridges said he does not anticipate any impact to the overall cost of the project from design changes--a scenario that Councilor John Console worried would alter the amount the town receives in state reimbursements--although he said that there is plenty of time to sort that out before it goes up for bid in the spring.

       “If there’s trouble on the horizon, we’ll know about it before the bid phase,” Bridges said.