Ledyard superintendent asks council to scrap endorsement of school renovation

Ledyard — The Town Council will likely rescind its resolution approving a $45 million renovation of Ledyard Middle School following a request by Superintendent Michael Graner.

In a letter dated April 12 from Graner to Town Council Chairman Linda Davis, Graner requested that the council rescind its $45 million appropriation for the design and construction of the planned renovations and addition. Graner wrote that the Board of Education learned that the cost of the "renovate-as-new" portion of the project exceeded the cost estimate for a brand-new facility.

"According to State Department of Education guidelines for school construction," he wrote, "Boards of Education must verify that any Renovate-as-New project will cost less than the construction of a new facility."

The reimbursement rate for this project would have been 62 percent, saddling taxpayers with $17 million of the total cost. Graner had estimated that the cost to the average homeowner would be about $100 annually in property taxes.

Davis said she received Graner's letter earlier this week and said she is "pretty positive" the council will move forward with the request.

"I can't say I'm surprised," she said. "The numbers didn't seem right. Obviously, the state agreed."

Graner could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening. Ledyard schools are on vacation this week.

The council somewhat begrudgingly approved the $45 million project, along with a $6.7 million plan for a new police facility, at its meeting last Wednesday. Several councilors, including Davis, openly balked at the price tag.

During the meeting, Davis compared Ledyard Middle School's square footage to that of the new Waterford High School building, which opened its doors earlier this month. Waterford High is more than 2½ times the size of Ledyard Middle — including the proposed addition — Davis said, but its renovations cost $67 million.

"It made no sense to me," she said Wednesday.

The renovation project, which Graner has said has been in the works for about eight years, would have addressed major security issues in the building, which dates back to the 1970s. Plans included traditional walled classrooms in place of the open-cluster design, an outdoor courtyard, upgrades to the school's security system, updated plumbing and electrical systems, and the installation of an emergency generator and a food-service kitchen. The latter two items would allow the school to be designated as an emergency shelter.

The project was slated to go before voters May 21 as part of the budget referendum. Davis said if the council rescinds the resolution, the question will be removed from the ballot.

Davis said that the Municipal Building Committee will work with the Board of Education as it returns to the drawing board. Graner's letter implied that the project has not been tabled for good, writing that the board will "review current plans and resubmit a renovation plan in the next several months."

The Town Council will meet next at 7 p.m. on April 24 in the Town Hall Annex.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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