City to get less than expected for Bassick work
Construction OK’d, with lower state reimbursement
BRIDGEPORT — The state office of School Construction Grants authorized the city to proceed with a brand new Bassick High School — but not at the 78.9 percent reimbursement rate the school board was told would be chipped in.
The reimbursement rate on a brand new Bassick would actually be about 69 percent, said Kosta Diamantis, director of the office. That shortfall would require the city to bond for the rest.
The difference could mean the city must bond $ 36 million rather than $ 24 million on the projected
$ 115 million project.
Even so, Diamantis said the city stands to break even or do better on the project price tag in the long run because there would be less costly environmental cleanup and maintenance moving forward.
“There would be more things reimbursable in a brand new school than in a renovation,” Diamantis said. “The difference in maintaining a new school versus a school that is old would more than make up that 10 percent.”
Diamantis said he was sold on a new versus renovated, or a blend of old and new, after meeting with project architects and city building officials.
The state official said he also plans to visit the school Monday to set his mind at ease about the historic nature of the 1929 portion of Bassick.
Board member Maria Pereira has said she has no problem replacing a 1968 addition built in front of the 1929 wing, but wants the older portion preserved. It was designed by architect Ernest G. Southey as a junior high school with a Georgian column facade and ornate auditorium.
Bassick is not on any national register, but the Bassick family and the architect both have historical significance, Pereira said. Set back from Fairfield and Clinton avenues, that significance is obscured by the addition.
Pereira has started an online petition that appears to have gotten nearly 200 signatures as of Thursday. She also contacted the state after Larry Schilling, a city program manager for the construction project, told the board repeatedly last week that the state would pay the 79 percent reimbursement rate for a brand new building.
“They said they would support new construction with 78.93 percent,” Schilling said of the state when asked during a presentation to the school board last week. “Hybrid would also get the 78 percent.”
Schilling subsequently said it was a misunderstanding on his part and other attendees at the meeting on what the rate would be for the new construction option.
Schilling also told the board it was the state, that decides on the option they will financially support.
City Finance Director Ken Flatto said there would need to be local school board approval of the educational specification as well as the city school building committee’s approval. The building committee canceled its last meeting because of the Thursday snow storm.
The state changed the reimbursement rate a couple of years ago, contributing more to renovation projects than brand new buildings. The percentage of the original building saved also plays a factor.
“At the end of the day the rate is not going to be 79 percent either way,” Flatto said. “I haven’t seen a project yet where we got a full 79 percent. There are always ineligibles.”
The city building com- mittee, Flatto added, wants a building that works for the kids.
Diamantis said when he was presented with the options, he was told there was nothing of historical significance in the older part of Bassick. He said he was told about the auditorium’s flat floor — most modern auditoriums have a sloped floor — and need for accessibility upgrades and how the 90- year- old boilers heat both buildings.
“The team was clearly pleased with the idea of a new school similar to what was done with Harding,” Diamantis said, who agreed more would be eligible for reimbursement with a new school.
During its presentation to the board, architects from Perkins Eastman of Stamford said that a renovated or only partially new school would be a challenge and also less efficient than one that was completely new.
The architects said that the cost of removing hazardous materials from a building being renovated would likely be more costly than simply eliminating the hazard and starting from scratch.
Diamantis said a firmer price tag won’t be available until there is a firm design. A firm design is waiting on an enrollment study the state will accept. The district has a 1,050 enrollment forecast, but needs more precise count based on demographics, building permits and birth rates.
All agree that the current Bassick footprint is too large by at least 30,000 square feet.
A view of Bassick High School in Bridgeport on July 25.