Start school project
From our standpoint, New London did approve the magnet school project by a June 30 deadline and should be included on the 2014-15 school building project priority list, which the state Department of Administrative Services (DAS) will present to the legislature in mid-December.
A DAS spokesman told a Day staff writer last week that because New London voters did not weigh in until the Nov. 4 election, the department considered the deadline missed. But that interpretation does not align with New London's charter.
The City Council's 5-1 vote in late June in favor of the project constituted approval. Yes, citizens did challenge the ordinance via a petition drive, but that did not reverse the council's approval. And when given the chance Nov. 4, voters sustained that approval with 65 percent backing the $168 million project, which qualifies for 80 percent state reimbursement.
Unlike most other municipalities, where such a project requires voter approval at referendum, in New London the council's approval is final, barring it being overturned by voters after a petition challenge.
This is no minor technical issue. New London wants to begin as soon as possible on the plan that will renovate its high school and Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School as new and construct a new science and technology middle school on the high school campus. It is part of a plan to turn the New London school system into an all-magnet regional school district, attracting students from surrounding communities, increasing state aid and improving educational quality.
Failure to get the project on the priority list for the coming legislative session could delay the start of work for a year.
Local state Senate and House legislators, and those preparing to take office, face a double challenge. First, they should try to convince the DAS to reconsider its stance and recognize New London's approval as having come by the June 30 deadline.
If that is not successful, the local delegation should lobby the legislature to add the New London project to the priority list, despite it not being included on the list submitted by the DAS.
This project is good for New London and city voters strongly backed it. A questionable interpretation of the rules should not get in the way of getting things started.
The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.
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