WALLINGFORD — School administrators and some members of the Board of Education aren’t surprised the Lyman Hall High School athletic complex is delayed and emphasized a desire to do the project correctly rather than rushing to finish — even if it means waiting another year for construction to begin.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously during a meeting Monday night to table action on a site plan outlining improvements at the Lyman Hall athletic complex due to some issues, such as installing an emergency lighting system and the hookup of a new restroom and concession stand to utilities.
Because the action was tabled, it won’t be considered by the commission until mid-June.
The proposed athletic complex at Lyman Hall will mirror the one at Sheehan High School. The plans include installing an artificial turf field and a larger eight-lane, asphalt track with rubber coating. Track and field event equipment would also be installed behind both end zones of the football field and a building would be constructed to house athletic and maintenance equipment. The plan also calls for installation of a new lighting system.
In the past, the Board of Education and Marc Deptula, the school system’s buildings and grounds supervisor, said they wanted to see the track and artificial turf field completed by the end of the summer. With the commission voting to table any action, however, the construction for the track and field is delayed until at least spring 2015.
“I’m not surprised,” Deptula said Tuesday. “I really anticipated this anyways ... This is just normal. It’s a big project, whether if we do the whole project is another question. You’ve got this proposed project and you have to dot your Is and cross your Ts for any possibilities. They need to propose the full package so different authorities understand what the potential is.”
Town Planner Kacie Costello said Tuesday she was surprised that tabling the site plan for a month could delay the start of construction almost a year. But school administrators want construction to occur during the summer when students aren’t in school. Because of the delay in approval from the commission, Deptula said, it’s too late to for the project to go out to bid and to start construction this summer.
Luke McCoy, a representative of BSC Group — the engineering firm handling the project — couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday but told commissioners at the meeting that the issues were minor. One of the issues not addressed included Fire Marshal Carmen Rao’s request for emergency lighting.
“The emergency lighting is just because it’s a place of assembly used at night. If the power goes out you need to make sure they could go out of the facility safely,” Rao said Tuesday. “The plan submitted didn’t show that, which is why I contacted the architect to get some clarification.”
Rao said he’s still waiting to hear back from BSC Group.
The project has been in the planning and design phase for two years, but Rao said he didn’t receive the plans until recently so he couldn’t tell the architect about issues any earlier.
“Just because it’s a municipal project, doesn’t mean code official people are in on it from day one,” Rao said. “Most of the time, the architects can spend years deciding how to do it, then submit the plans. It’s just a normal process for things.”
While Deptula said he wasn’t surprised, he said he’d rather not rush to complete the athletic complex.
“Most of the time, it’s a mistake to rush these things,” he said.
Board of Education Vice Chairman Joe Marrone said he understood the commission’s decision to table any action because “it’s a big project and they’re interested in making sure everything gets done properly.”
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said he felt the same as his colleagues and added that, even if the project received approval, moving forward would be difficult because of funding. Right now, the Board of Education only has $300,000 for the project, he said.
“I wish I could say that it wasn’t true and it was going to move forward right now,” he said, “but unfortunately, it’s the timing and financing and making certain everything is done to the highest level of quality to allow a complex that is going to have long-term sustainability and longevity.”
While the delay is mostly due to procedural reasons, Deptula said it doesn’t hurt the school system to work with various town departments. “It’s not a big deal. I brought a few things before the PZC and if anything, it’s helpful,” he said.“You get other people to weigh in on what you want to do, and that’s never a bad thing.”