By Melvin Mason
Town Council members sounded as though they are ready to move forward with the proposed Stratford High School renovation plan after Thursday’s workshop meeting, though more work needs to be done.
Officials from the Board of Education, Antinozzi Associates and CREC spoke during the special meeting at Stratford High, attended by about 50 people.
The proposed renovation, which would include adding a new wing west of King Street as well as provide extensive renovations to the current building, is expected to cost about $125.9 million. Under the plan, Stratford would receive about $73 million in state reimbursement, covering more than 60% of the cost. Stratford would have to pay about $52 million.
If everything is approved on time. the design for the renovation will be done by June and construction could start by December.
For Council Chairwoman Beth Daponte, Thursday’s hearing eased some of her concerns, including about the safety of the students during the planned construction and air quality consideration.
“I don’t want to speak for the whole council, but for me it was a wonderful opportunity. very positive. It was great to see the community come out and really be interested in what it’s all about and how it could change the educational outcomes for the town’s students,” Daponte said.
Sixth District Councilman Philip Young said the presentation was the first time he had seen the entire scope of the project, though he had seen bits and pieces of the plan previously.
“This is first time I’ve sat down and seen it, seen the money, seen how the building was going to look, stuff like that,” he said.
Young said he was also pleased that it would not result in a huge mill rate increase for the town.
Ninth District Councilman Alan Llewelyn, chairman of the Stratford High Renovation Subcommittee, said he feels very good about the project after the hearing. Llewelyn has been one of the major proponents of the plan and hopes to see it start soon.
“From what I’ve seen, a lot of the feedback has been very positive, people are happy and it looks like very generally supportive of the project. The public seems supportive of the project, so it looks like we’re in a very good place with the high school renovation,” he said.
Several speakers at the meeting urged the Council to pass the necessary resolutions to allow the project to go forward.
Stephanie Philips, a former council member and member of the Stratford High School Renovation Subcommittee, said the proposed renovation is one of the things that united the previous councilors.
“All ten of us were behind this and I think that’s significant. This was one of the best examples of our town coming together and I hope that resonates, that we need more of this,” she said.
The Ordinance Committee, comprised of the ten council members, will meet on Monday to consider the resolutions. Should that committee recommend approval, the Town Council could finalize the renovation project at its March 14 meeting.