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MERIDEN — Members of the School Building Committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve estimates for the furniture, fixtures, and equipment associated with construction at both Platt and Maloney High Schools.
Professional estimates for the cost at Platt High School came in a $2,347,529; and at Maloney High School, $2,220,011 — in both cases roughly $500,000 over budget.
Earlier in the building process, money was moved out of the furniture, fixtures, and equipment accounts into the contingency accounts for each school project. The aim was to use the money in case other parts of the project went over budget, said city consultant Glen Lamontagne. That didn’t become necessary, and the funds are available to put back into the furniture, fixtures and equipment accounts. In each case the amount of money moved was roughly equal to how much the professional estimates ran over budget.
The approval sought by architectural firms Antinozi Associates for Platt, and Fletcher and Thompson for Maloney set off red flags for committee member Bruce Fontanella.
“You’re asking us to approve an estimate that’s over budget? I’m not going to vote for that,” Fontanella said.
Lamontagne explained, however, that it wasn’t a vote to start spending the money, but a vote that would enable the process to continue moving forward.
First, the School Building Committee has to approve of the professional estimates. Its approval sends those estimates to the Board of Education for approval, and then to the state Department of Education for final approval. It’s only after that final approval that the bidding process can begin.
“We’re not asking you to change a budget; we understand that it’s over,” Lamontagne said. “We’re asking you to approve the estimates so we can be at the state soon. We took too much money out and put it in the contingency account, but we didn’t spend it there.”
Fontanella argued successfully afterward to move money out of the contingency funds to match the estimates before they were approved.
Committee member John Lineen cast the lone dissenting vote to Fontanella’s motion, saying it was unnecessary.
“We’ll be back moving money again. We didn’t need to tonight,” he said. He added that the funds in the contingency accounts were more than enough to cover the difference in the professional estimates, so it wasn’t an issue of approving estimates with no possible way to fund them.
Typically, the committee would move the funds just before the bidding process — a process that’s still at least three months away, Lamontagne said.
The committee, however, voted to move the money Thursday, before approving projections for the type of furniture that will go into each school.
In both high schools, classrooms will be equipped with tables and chairs, rather than desks with chairs connected, explained Kate Ryan of Fletcher Thompson. Two students will sit at each table, and both tables and chairs will be on casters, enabling teachers to reconfigure their rooms as needed.
Each classroom will come with an interactive white board, projector, and charging station for mobile devices.
In business, technology, and science classrooms, the desks and chairs wouldn’t be mobile. Business rooms and computer labs would come complete with computer stations, while science classrooms require lab tables.
Another big change comes in the former libraries, now renamed media centers. They’ll be designed to be more accommodating to collaborative projects, and include tables and more comfortable chairs.
“I would say that between 85 and 90 percent of the furniture will be the same at Platt and Maloney,” Ryan said, “It’s in the media center and cafeteria that we might integrate some color or different design.”
“The (School) Board made a decision long ago that they wanted the schools to look differently from each other,” Lamontagne added.
The furniture, fixtures, and equipment will go out to bid in phases, with the committee purchasing items that will be used first, because construction will continue in phases as well.
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