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Fairfield's Work at Sherman Starts in October

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Principal Eileen Roxbee’s students at Roger Sherman School will get a second serving line in their cafeteria, better air quality in their classrooms and more space for their administrators, nurses and special education department. But the school will have to wait another two years before it learns whether it will get any more upgrades.

The Representative Town Meeting approved a revised renovation project for Sherman school at its meeting Monday night. Work on the addition will begin in October.

“We expect [the work] to conclude by the time for school to begin in August 2012,” town purchasing director Twig Holland said in her presentation to the town’s legislators.

Fairfield’s government originally approved $2.2 million for Sherman’s renovations this spring. But all of the bids from prospective contractors came in for more than that figure. The group in charge of the project, the Special Projects Standing Building Committee, had to get a new round of approvals this month to cover the extra costs. The Board of Selectmen signed off on $3.8 million to finish the project over three years, but the Board of Finance dropped the figure to $3 million.

The RTM unanimously agreed with the finance board’s decision Monday. But many members expressed frustration with the estimates received during the first vote in the spring.

“As far as I was concerned, a couple months ago this was a done deal,” said Rep. Ed Bateson, R-3. “What went wrong, I don’t know. But I’ve got to tell you I’m very unhappy with the process.”

The committee will have to come back to all three boards later for approval on the funding for the rest of the project. The original plans also called for improved ventilation in the gymnasium and all-purpose room, which the town would not be able to afford for $3 million.

Even approved in the future, Sherman’s families will have to wait at least an extra year to see the final renovations. Because the school sits in a flood zone, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s guidelines prohibit Fairfield from carrying out any additions of more than 50 percent of the building’s value, in this case about $2 million.

This round of work fits under the guideline because the upgrades to the ventilation system are exempt, because they just bring the building up to code. But any more improvements must wait one year to count as a separate project. The means Sherman will not see its renovations fully complete until 2014 at the earliest.

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