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South School window project moving forward

After several rounds of questioning by the town's funding bodies, the creation of a building committee and an overall price cut of $400,000, a costly window replacement project at New Canaan's South Elementary School is finally moving forward.

Originally budgeted at $3 million, the project will repair some windows and replace others, replace a failing glass block system and repair the building expansion joint.

The Board of Education voted Monday to approve a $2.6 million bonding request for the project after engineering, architectural and environmental consultants provided a more exact estimate for the overall cost of the project.

During budget deliberations this year, the Town Council agreed to bond the project, but it asked the Board of Education to form a building committee to oversee the renovations.

The recently formed committee has decided to split the project into two phases -- the first will take place this summer and the second in summer 2015.

Phase one includes removal of the glass block from the upper level of the school and abatement of the upper level.

Nancy Harris, the district's interim director of finance and operations, said the area will be "sealed up" until phase two, which includes more abatement and the replacement of the windows, starts next year.

"It will look a little bit odd for the school year, but that will give us a jump so that the window people can come in and insert the windows at that time," Harris said.

The committee also has determined that all upper windows, where a glass block currently exists, will be replaced with frosted glass, according to Harris. The school's interior courtyard windows will remain clear glass. At the bus loop, the brick sides flanking the bank of curved windows will be modified to make both sides equal in size.

Bill Silver, of Silver Petrucelli & Associates, noted that the upper windows have not changed since the 1950s, when the school was first built.

"It's time to modernize," Silver said at the meeting. "Obviously, all the classroom windows throughout the school were modernized in 1995, but even those were put in using existing wooden framing and it's time to modernize those as well."

Tighe & Bond, an engineering and environmental consulting firm, found that the windows' interior and exterior caulking contains 7 to 10 percent of asbestos. The agency also found that the paint on the upper story exterior trim and on interior window frames at the bus platform have lead above the recommended levels. The firm also found high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs.

The Board of Finance will take action on the updated project at a meeting May 13, at 7:30 p.m., at the New Canaan Nature Center.

The Town Council is expected to take it up on May 21, also at 7:30 p.m., at the nature center. Shortly after that, the district will start the bidding process. The tentative start date for phase one of the project is June 6. Read Full Article 

The building committee is also applying for a state education grant, which Harris said could result in up to $500,000 in reimbursement funds. The $2.6 million project cost also includes a 15 percent contingency line.

The committee is composed of Harris, Board of Education members Penny Rashin and Gene Goodman, Town Council member Joe Paladino and district's Manager of Facilities Operations Robert Willoughby.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

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