Letters to the Editor: 5 in Support of M-D Renovation

Chance to Make M-D a 21st-Century Learning Environment

September 15

To the Editor:

When I was president of the Miller PTA – 13 years ago – it was obvious then that the building was in need of an overhaul. Buckets in the hallway were common sights on rainy days; the HVAC system was so loud that teachers had to disable it during class time; space was so tight that a closet we jokingly referred to as our “PTA office” was commandeered for teaching space; and parking was so inefficient that many were forced to park on Wolfpit Rd. to attend school functions.

Now, 13 years – and one new preschool — later, we have a chance to finally correct these flaws, and to renovate Miller-Driscoll into a 21st-century learning environment of which our entire community can be proud. The Miller-Driscoll Building Committee, which included a team of architects, engineers, financial analysts, security professionals and educators, worked tirelessly for the past several years to bring to the town a fiscally responsible solution that addresses all existing infrastructure issues, and also allows for a significant redesign and upgrade of the building’s current footprint.

Wilton taxpayers will be asked to fund $44 million of the total $50 million renovation cost. No doubt that is a high price tag. But consider two facts:  (1) Failure to act will only postpone the inevitable, and we will at some point have to address these desperately needed upgrades, probably at a higher cost; and (2) The proposed renovation cost is $393 per square foot. A “2014 Report by School Building Projects Advisory Council,” which is a committee appointed by Gov. Malloy, found that building costs in Connecticut tend to be in the neighborhood of $500 per square foot.

As a current member of the Board of Education, I have seen dozens of residents stand up at our budget hearings and tell us “the reason we moved to Wilton was because of the schools.” Unless we make this investment in our elementary school, we run the very real risk of driving young families into neighboring towns, with consequences that would be felt by all Wilton property owners.

I urge Wilton voters to invest in our community by voting ‘yes’ on the Miller-Driscoll renovation project.

Christine Finkelstein

 

Yes Vote Keeps Our Children Safe and Our Property Values Strong

September 15

To the Editor:

After reading some of the accounts of the proposed renovation of Miller Driscoll I felt I would like to make a statement. The talented volunteers that have worked on this proposal for so many months are so close to a solution that it would be a shame to waste all their good work because a few cannot see the benefit to the children.

My husband and I, both seniors, have been Wilton residents for 29 years and I have been a Wilton real estate agent for nine of those years. I have never had a child in the Wilton school system but I strongly support and will vote for the proposed renovation of the Miller-Driscoll Elementary School, if for no other reason but the safety issue, both environmentally and visual. Without safer entrances and playgrounds our children cannot be monitored properly and we all know where that could lead.

The single most compelling reason why my clients with families chose to locate in Wilton is our outstanding school system. For families with young children, the elementary school is the most important. It is the gateway to their education.

Wilton does not have some of the amenities that other adjacent towns have. The attraction of the school system is the major factor keeping upward pressure on real estate values.

The renovation of Miller-Driscoll has gotten some bad press recently, hopefully not accurate or damaging. We cannot afford to let Miller-Driscoll deteriorate.

I feel a ‘yes’ vote for the renovation of Miller-Driscoll School is a vote to keep our children safe and our property values strong. Please don’t assume because it is a good project that it will pass without your vote. Make this a record breaking turn out at the poll this year so there will be a true picture of how our residents truly feel.

Gail M. Cioffi

 

Miller-Driscoll Project Will Enhance Quality of Life and Property Values

September 16

To the Editor:

I write to urge passage of the Miller-Driscoll bond proposal next week.

As a former Chairman of the Board of Finance and First Selectman of Wilton, I was actively involved in expansion and renovation projects for Middlebrook and Cider Mill Schools and Wilton High. These projects have helped keep Wilton in the forefront of Connecticut school systems. They also have provided first-class facilities such as the Clune Center for the Performing Arts which benefit the entire community. These investments have benefited taxpayers enormously both by continuing the Town’s tradition of offering quality education and also by enhancing the property values which follow good schools.

We are now presented with another major school project: renovation and expansion at Miller-Driscoll. A hard-working committee of qualified citizens (and taxpayers) worked several years on this project, which will provide many more years of life to the school’s 1960’s era facilities. Like the school building done at the turn of the century, the Miller-Driscoll project will enhance quality of life and property values for all who live and pay taxes here.

Please vote yes on the bond issue at the Town Meeting Tuesday [Sept. 23] or at the referendum Saturday, Sept. 27.

Paul Hannah

 

Vote “Yes” on the Miller-Driscoll Renovation Project

September 16

To the Editor:

In 2006, the leadership of the Wilton Public Schools and the Board of Education assessed the requirements of the existing Pre-School program to determine the appropriate course of action for development of a facility that would meet the mandates for pre-school education.

In May 2007, the citizens of Wilton approved a request for $150,000 to conduct architectural and engineering studies for a capital building project to address space and programming issues at the Pre-School, which was located in the complex that housed the Miller and Driscoll Schools.

The studies were completed and in March 2008, the Wilton BOE approved the Statement of Requirements planning document for a Pre-School Building Project.

Marketplace conditions in 2008 impacted the project, but the initiative was resumed in 2011 because the issues that needed to be addressed at the school complex still existed.

At that time, the planning document was updated to reflect the fact that the Tilford W. Miller School and Ina E. Driscoll School had been combined into a single school beginning with the 2010/2011 school year; and that changes had been made to Pre-School Services and project-related Wetlands and Septic surveys had been conducted since 2008.

More than seven years after the first conversations related to the Miller and Driscoll Schools were held, Wilton voters are being asked to approve the Miller-Driscoll Renovation Project.

The due diligence has been done. The plan, which has been thoroughly researched and painstakingly vetted, is fiscally sound.

As a former member of the Wilton Board of Education, the Long-Range Planning Team for Miller School and Driscoll School, and the original Miller-Driscoll Project Steering Committee, I urge the electors of Wilton to vote “yes” on the Miller-Driscoll Renovation Project.

Miller-Driscoll School provides the first structured academic experience for the youngest (K-2) and most vulnerable (Pre-K) students in Wilton. It significantly influences future academic, social and emotional gains for each of the students enrolled there.

This is a wise investment in the town’s future. And it’s the right thing to do for the students.

Troy Ellen Dixon

 

Renovation–Economically Makes Sense

September 16

To the Editor:

I am in favor of the Miller/Driscoll renovation project. The building is in desperate need of attention.  The roof and hv/ac system are past their normal life expectancy.

The State offers more assistance if we renovate than if we build new, so economically it makes sense to renovate. I acknowledge the cost is high but we will be getting good value for the investment.

I have seen two presentations on the plans and was pleased with the thought put into the modifications. There will be increased security, greater energy efficiency, a better facility for the pre-k program, a consolidated cafeteria, abatement of hazardous materials, expanded parking and better building flow.

There will also be new playgrounds in the rear off the new cafeteria.

The Town of Wilton has been planning and working on this for years. Please come to the town meeting on Sept. 23 or vote on Sept. 27. Vote yes for the Miller/Driscoll Renovation.

Deborah McFadden

2 COMMENTS

  1. Become an informed voter…consider viable alternatives.
    Why not build New for 330 per sq ft as other towns have done? Better than spending much more than that and exposing children to toxic materials in the process! Vote smart!
    ETP September 16, 2014 at 7:22 am
    Bruce,
    All the literature points to significantly lower construction costs than proposed here in Wilton. A new elementary school built in Alexandria Va for 46 million at 97,000 sq ft. See http://apsva.us/newes1 includes hard and soft costs.
    Please don’t say ” well, we are Wilton, so we must spend more than anyone else.!,
    The Town of Wilton Requires all participants to sign an ethics statement. This is not my requirement, it is a town requirement. Where are they? Are all participants barred from participating in the construction in any way? Don’t act indignant, just answer a tax payers question.
    It is NOT irresponsible to be concerned with TOXIC materials. You can claim safeguards but you cannot claim with absolute certainty that it is impossible. As you state, remediation adds costs not incurred when building new. Why take the chance?
    A BRAND NEW four story building could be built on one of the ball fields at MD using off the shelf plans from the national school design organization avoiding toxic material issues, excessive soft costs. Police headquarters could relocate from their cramped quarters to the old MD site offering increased security as well.
    Yes, it is easy to toss numbers. The tossing starts with a 3 million roofing, HVAC project at MD that suddenly devolved to a 50 million adventure in 3 short years. Why ? You stated doing the project “piecemeal” would cost 42 million…where did that number come from? Are there individual bids for the various steps adding to 42 million or is it a guess? I know Hoffman estimated 500, 000 for the envelope, the roof and HVAC come in at 3.5 million ( less if the roof warranties were called). A school in nearby Fairfield replaced all of its exterior doors and windows for $502,000 see
    http://www.richardscorp.com/projects/riverfield.htm
    I do not understand why you immediately disparage documented costs from known, completed projects while holding firm to the credibility of numbers without bids. Are your numbers based on bids? Wilton has the reputation of spending way too much. Let’s end it now.
    Please answer:
    Where are the signed ethics statements?
    Are current participants barred from participating in the build?
    Why not use Comstock, Gilbert Bennett or Montessori for pre K?
    Why not build new on the MD site and repurpose the existing school?
    Why not realize taxpayers are justifiably concerned with the failure of the town to maintain MD?
    Why not understand taxpayers are concerned with a roofing-HVAC project turning into a 50 million drain?
    Why not consider alternatives to the plan you proposed?
    There was scant info given to taxpayers in the past three years. To have this plan suddenly foisted on the community without presenting alternatives is disturbing.
    There was no rush to fix the roof that lead to IAQ issues, so why the rush to sell this BEFORE all options are revealed.
    You have not properly informed the public and they might make the mistake of voting for this without understanding it’s serious questions and issues.
    Ed
    Reply
    ETP September 16, 2014 at 9:24 pm
    Here is a link to another school building project. It is in Mass. Nearby and not that long ago. A brand new High School costing $330 per square foot.
    http://homenewshere.com/wilmington_town_crier/news/article_67b43f6a-beb2-11e0-93d5-001cc4c002e0.html
    Mass has a program where districts are encouraged to use stock, proven designs. They are also encouraged to tweak the stock design to avoid the cookie cutter look. Cuts down on construction costs while enabling a custom look. Smart thinking that would have, will save Wilton tons of money if adopted. Let’s educators focus on teaching, not bricks.

  2. I have looked at ETP’s research. It is, at best, misleading.

    Williamsburg, VA Elementary School – cost $46.5 million It has a projected school population of 630 – the Miller Driscoll renovation is about the same price for 930 students.
    Riverfield School – in 2009 replaced Windows for $500,000. In 2013 they spent approximately $15 million for a net addition of 6 classrooms.
    Wilmington High School (in Massachusetts) $83 million for 960 students.

    Given a closer look, especially at the number of students in each school, Wilton is getting a bargain.

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