WHS Exterior Design Gets a Nod from the Council
WETHERSFIELD - A Wethersfield High School renovation exterior design that will look to add more than 200 parking spaces to the site, as well as re-coordinate traffic patterns, got the unanimous stamp of approval from the Wethersfield Town Council at last Monday night’s meeting.

       Members of the project’s architectural design team, including Rusty Malik and Laurel Purcell, gave a presentation explaining changes to the site pertaining to traffic flow, parking, and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance measures.

       Currently, the high school has a total of 410 parking spaces. That number that will bump up to over 550--526, plus 25 handicapped spaces--under the team’s proposed design, but Malik said that the site could have up to 600 total spaces when event and alternative parking spaces are included. He warned, however, that large events, such as the bi-annual Thanksgiving Day home football game, may still fill the school’s lots beyond capacity, but that the design should provide more than enough space in normal circumstances.

       “One of the concerns is always where do people park?” Malik said. “Certainly it’s impossible to design for that level of parking.”

       While the project team anticipates needing the additional parking, how and where it is going to be added is unclear at this time, Malik said. Although placing spaces offsite is one option, it will not be state reimbursable, he warned.

       Another concern throughout the exterior design phase of the project has been traffic congestion, particularly at drop off and dismissal times. One of the plan’s objectives is to separate the cars of parents coming through in the morning and afternoon from the bus traffic. Under the design, buses will be relegated to an entrance coming off of Wolcott Hill Road, while parents will enter the school off of Jay Street.

       “They’re completely separated, but there’s an opportunity to crossover when they need to,” Malik said.

       The key is making sure everyone is informed about the change, said Wethersfield Superintendent of Schools Michael Emmett during the presentation.

       “We’re going to have to educate our students and our parents to make sure they’re using the right entrance,” Emmett said.

       The project was originally supposed to consist of the drilling of 250 geothermal energy wells, but the unexpected need for PCB abatement prompted the elimination of this component. The switch to a HVAC system is expected to save the town $1,639,000, according to Purcell.

       “The HVAC system’s value is pretty much the same, so the savings is pretty much the site work,” Purcell said.

       The project team will tack off another $75,000 in costs with the scrapping of an additional 150 seats in the visitors section at the turf field, according to Purcell.

       “All we’re doing is giving you back the same capacity you have now,” she said.

       Deputy Mayor John Console expressed concerns regarding the need to reduce the project’s expenditures, and suggested that the Council may need to go back to referendum for an additional $5 million.

       “I think to complete the project the way we want it to come out, maybe it’s appropriate,” Console said. “I’m just saying with the cuts that are being made, we might need to look at it.”

       Others disagreed.

       “I think that’s speculative; we have a long way to go,” said Councilor Gerry Roberts. “The bids came in over, but the next ones might be under.”