Stonington works to assemble sidewalk, school and sewer bonding request

Stonington — The Board of Finance is now considering a multi-million dollar bonding package that would install sidewalks along Route 1 in Pawcatuck, replace mechanical equipment at the high school and middle school and repair the town's aging sewer system.

The board spent more than an hour Wednesday night discussing these projects and more as they work to assemble a package to send to voters for approval this fall. While no decisions have been made and board members are seeking more information for their next meeting, the various projects discussed Wednesday night would cost about $7 million.

The discussion came as Board of Finance Chairwoman June Strunk told board members that the almost completed renovation and expansion project at Deans Mill and West Vine Street schools is projected to be about $3.7 million under budget.

Residents have pushed town officials for years to install sidewalks that link Stonington High School with downtown Pawcatuck. Attempts to secure state funding have been unsuccessful and money was never included in the town capital improvement budget for the work.

After residents resumed their call for sidewalks this past spring, $80,000 was included in the 2019-20 budget to initiate an engineering study to determine the scope and cost of extending sidewalks from the high school to downtown Pawcatuck.

Town officials are also upset that the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Government recently did not include the Pawcatuck sidewalk funding on its list of transportation projects in the region that should receive state funding. Town Director of Planning Jason Vincent said the COG changed some of the metrics used to rank the project resulting in the town not being on the list and one COG member said the town has a greater ability to pay for such projects than other towns.

Vincent presented board members Wednesday night with a detailed analysis of $3 million in sidewalk projects not just in Pawcatuck but other sections of town. Board members, though, focused on the almost $700,000 needed to fill in areas along busy Route 1 in Pawcatuck that do not have sidewalks.

The board also discussed several school projects including spending $861,000 to replace components  of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units at the high school, $1.95 million to replace the HVAC system at Stonington Middle School, $835,000 to replace the roof at Stonington Middle school, $110,000 for a building management system at the new central office at Pawcatuck Middle School and Stonington Middle School and $438,900 for new LED lighting at fields at the high school. The roof at the middle school would be eligible for about 30 percent state reimbursement.

Board member Lynn Young, who also serves on the Water Pollution Control Authority, suggested members also consider a "couple of million dollars" of repairs  to the town's sewer pumping systems and sewer lines which are part of what she called "an antiquated collection system."

Adding that work to the other project would save bonding costs later on, board members agreed to get more information about the sewer projects.

Although not part of the bonding, the board also discussed a plan to relocate the school bus depot from its current Extrusion Drive location. A plan to spend $400,000 to improve property on Jerry Browne Road owned by the Valenti car dealership has been scrapped because town officials did not want to spend money on land the town does not own. It is now looking at the lot behind the Human Services Building or the School Administration Building in Old Mystic to accommodate the 35 buses. Costs to relocate the depot to those locations is estimated at about $50,000.

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