Officials Look to State Aid for Over-Budget Renovation
WETHERSFIELD - A combination of higher than estimated construction-related bids and escalating PCB abatement costs has bumped the projected cost of additions to the Wethersfield High School building, part of a $75 million renovation project, by $10.3 million, according to an article in The Hartford Courant.

       “We still have $75 million to keep going, but down the road we might be a little short,” said Wethersfield High School Renovation Building Committee Member David Drake.

       In the meantime, the Committee will attempt to secure additional funds--most likely through state aid, Drake said. The aid that they are hoping to secure is called a space waiver, and it allows municipalities to receive reimbursement based on the square footage of a school building. If it comes out to more than what the state requires for a given number of students, the town may be entitled to state funds.

       “If they can reimburse for the space, that would give us a lot of money and go a long way in making up the difference,” Drake said.

       How long, exactly? Well Berlin got a $15 million reimbursement from the state for its high school project.

       “We’re not going to get that much money, but it should be a lot,” Drake said.

       Mayor Paul Montinieri is anticipating somewhere between $11-12 million, according to The Courant.

       The building, which is 300,000 square feet, is 43,000 square feet over what would be required of the district, according to The Courant.

       While they are confident that they will be able to obtain some state aid, the Committee has not ruled out going back to referendum in an effort to have more money approved, Drake said.

       The reason bids have come in higher than anticipated is simply that contractors are getting more work, said Superintendent of Schools Michael Emmett.

       “In lean times, you might get a whole lot of bids,” Emmett said. “We didn’t get as many bids, and when you have fewer bids, there’s less competition.”

       Another issue has been the presence of PCBs. The Building Committee just finished clearing PCB material in gymnasium B, a boys’ locker room, and music rooms over Christmas break, but more has been found under the floor of gym B and the wrestling room-a discovery that was made as demolition was starting-Emmett said.

       Gymnasium A, which sits adjacent to Gymnasium B, has been closed off until the substances can be abated-likely over February break-Emmett said. Air tests of Gym B confirmed that the PCBs are not hazardous, but the neighboring section was closed off as a precautionary measure, he said. The physical education curriculum is continuing with a health class emphasis.

       “My main focus is to make sure the kids are safe, the staff is safe, and that programs go on with little disturbance,” Emmett said.

       Additional costs for PCB remediation measures have cost an extra $3-4 million, according to Drake.