Sen. Osten submits bill funding Ledyard construction projects

Ledyard — Eight months after funding for Ledyard's school construction projects unexpectedly was delayed a year, a bill introduced in the state Senate aims to end the holdup.

Introduced by Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, the bill would fund the state's share of Ledyard's $65 million renovation of Ledyard Middle School and Gallup Hill School separately from other school construction bonding.

The bill was co-sponsored in the state House by state Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, and newly elected Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton. All are optimistic that the construction money will be approved at the very least by the end of the session.

The Department of Administrative Services moved the projects to a "delayed eligibility list" last year, saying that Ledyard's projects were not yet ready for construction.

Now that Department of Administrative Services approved the bid package, due next month, legislators hope the bill will be approved early enough to coincide with the approval of the construction bid package.

"It would be nice to allay the concerns of some residents that the state has made their commitment," France said.

The timing will depend, however, on whether the House chooses to approve bonding separately or "hold it until the end of June," said Conley, despite the projects being ready to go.

The Town Council voted last year to proceed with the school construction schedule despite the holdup in state funding. Currently, the plan calls for some environmental work to begin during spring break and for construction to begin this summer.

The move to introduce a standalone bill is not unprecedented, Osten added, and it is a way to indicate to the legislature that the project is very important.

"I like to have my things on file for bonding so that it's clear that these are projects I'm looking to forward ... clearly Ledyard has a project that is ready to move," Osten said.

And while the ruling by Superior Court Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher cast a skeptical eye on school construction spending, Osten said that Ledyard did not fit the profile of overspending.

Her interpretation of the ruling was that "there should be no Taj Mahal-type school."

"That's essentially what this is all about: Ledyard has already pared all the projects down to a good educational environment" without frills, Osten added.

During the end of the last session, with residents concerned about the state's commitment, Osten secured the signatures of the legislative leadership in both parties promising that the town's projects would be funded during the next session. With one exception, those leaders remain the same.

n.lynch@theday.com

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