Meriden's City Council voted to bond $216.7 million for major renovations to Platt and Maloney High Schools Monday night – a figure substantially less than the $228 million the the Council approve at its May 25 meeting.
The final vote was 8-3 with Councilor George McGoldrick abstaining. McGoldrick is employed as a consultant with the architecture firm Fletcher Thompson, which is redesigning Maloney High School. Councilors Dan Brunet (R), Bob Williams, Jr. (We the People) and Walter Shamock (We the People) voted against the bonding.
The city will bond $106.2 million for Maloney High School, and $110.5 million for Platt High School. Councilors voted on amendments to lower costs from $109.5 million and $118.2 million, respectively, by decreasing each project's contingency fund.
Renovations are slated to begin in 2013 and be completed by 2017.
"We're very excited for our students and staff," said Platt's Principal Donna Mik, leaving City Hall with Maloney's Principal Ann Hushin after the meeting. Mik said that since all of the middle schools in Meriden are new, students spend their junior high years with cutting edge technology and science labs and then they graduate to high schools that don't have those amenities.
"It's time," Hushin said.
Hushin said that it is difficult for students with physical disabilites to move around the schools – the bathrooms, the elevators – because the current buildings are not Americans with Disabilites Act-Compliant. The high school buildings are being redesigned with these concerns in mind.
But Meriden's three conservative city council members said the projected tax hike to pay for the bonding would prove too much for Meriden residents and businesses to bear. Although much depends on rates at the time of bonding, one projection offered by city Finance Director Mike Lupkus Monday night had residents with a $200,000 house paying $250 more in taxes in 2017 or 2018, the third and costliest year of the project for taxpayers. That amount, Lupkus said, would then decrease for the next 17 years until the 20-year bond is paid off.
"We’re putting a millstone around the taxpayers neck for the next 20 years and they have no say in it," Shamock said.
Shamock said the project should have been voted on by the public through a referendum, like large municipal expenditures are in other towns in the state. Meriden's charter reportedly states that projects like this cannot be approved by referendum.
"If this went to a referendum, $218 million would be defeated soundly in the city of Meriden," Shamock said.
Councilor Brian Daniels (D) responded to Shamock by saying the public has had significant input in the process, citing workshops and public hearings.
"We have left no stone unturned in the last 3 to 5 years in deciding the best way to proceed," he said. "We’ve also done the analysis – it would cost the taxpayers of this city millions – possibly tens of millions more if we delay."
The city has been pushing to get the bonding approved in time to present its plans to the state before June 30 – the end of the fiscal year. As it stands now, officials are hoping the state will reimburse the city for about two-thirds of the construction costs. They are hoping to get the plans approved before the state enacts legislation to decrease the amount it will pick up for new construction -- a bill including this has already been passed in both the state House and Senate.
Correction - The article posted at 8:58 p.m. Monday had an erroneous figure of $116.7. We fixed this within 5 minutes of publishing the error. Our apologies for the $100 million typo!