Town officials broke ground on the Wethersfield High School renovation last Monday.
Groundbreaking Ceremony Held for WHS Renovation
WETHERSFIELD - The first phase of construction for the $75 million Wethersfield High School renovation is ready to begin, and the project’s building committee marked the occasion with a groundbreaking ceremony last Monday at the building’s flag pole near the front entrance.
“It was a long time coming, a tremendous amount of work,” said Wethersfield Superintendent of Schools Michael Emmett during an after-ceremony reception inside the school. “Dealing with delays, it was very challenging, but it’s very gratifying being out there today now that we’re moving forward.”
The leg work has not even begun yet and the team has already encountered its share of complications--the discovery of PCBs at the site prompted the Committee to proceed with a two-phased approval approach, while bids that came in at over anticipated costs pushed phase one work that was supposed to start in September back a month.
“We’re going to do everything we can to stay on target and stay on schedule,” Emmett said.
Phase one construction will consist of the exterior site and steel work, according to Town Engineer Mike Turner. O & G Industries will also be laying the foundation for the gymnasium, library/media center and music room additions being built on the south side of the site.
Shovels are in the ground, but doubts about the project’s finances continue to echo at Town Council meetings. Deputy Mayor John Console has expressed concerns regarding changes that include the scrapping of a geothermal cooling and heating system, amongst other second round bid-dependent tentative alterations, such as the elimination of 150 football stadium bleacher seats.
Console has gone as far as to suggest that the Building Committee may need to go to referendum again for additional $2-5 million, a determination that members, namely Councilor David Drake, said is premature.
“I know the finances are tight, there’s no doubt about that,” Emmett said of the ongoing discussion. “You’re at the mercy of what comes out in the bids.”
For now, the committee is focusing on how the start of construction will affect parking at the high school. At a Sept. 16 Town Council meeting, Wethersfield High School Principal Tom Moore reported that 100 seniors had submitted requests for 40 available parking spots. It was suggested that space would be provided for additional spots, and the Committee has made that happen. An area in the southwest corner of the building will house 40-50 more spaces, Turner said.
“This way all of the seniors will be able to park,” Turner said. “That was the goal, to get at least all of the seniors.”
Following the reception, architect Rusty Malik, Moore, Emmett, and councilors Gerry Roberts, Stathis Manosous, David Drake and Mike Hurley began looking ahead to phase two with a tour of the interior of the building, which will see renovations that include new science labs and other classrooms.
Moore walked the group into the cafeteria, which is overlooked from a window in a somewhat narrow hallway. This space will be expanded, he said.
“The walls go away and it becomes a larger common area,” Moore said. “It’ll be more open and, hopefully, more welcome.”
Another stop was the current gymnasium, which will eventually become a space for temporary classrooms, Moore said. Even the girls’ locker rooms will be put to use as science labs.
“We have the ability to get water in there and all the stuff they need,” Moore said.