A View from Glen Hill: Two projects worthy of your vote

Two major town building projects are before our town this year. The Comstock Community Center renovation project is on the ballot for this year’s Annual Town Meeting (Question 4), held earlier this week with voting continuing this Saturday at the Clune Center, and the Miller-Driscoll School project is presently scheduled to be on the ballot for a special town meeting in September.

Both projects fill very serious needs, and both entail work that, if not addressed comprehensively now, will have to be done piecemeal at significantly higher cost and with reduced efficacy. The Comstock project comes at a time right now when the long-term bond market is very favorable and especially so to municipalities with the highest bond ratings, like Wilton.

The Miller-Driscoll renovations are absolutely critical. While air-quality tests recently completed there have reconfirmed that its air quality is good, the fact is that the building’s antiquated HVAC is now compromised to the point where teachers turn off their noisy classroom units so students can actually hear in class. Its roof is badly in need of replacement, and other structural components are failing. Our children deserve better than this, and in the hands of a building committee chaired by the skilled town schools’ project overseer who volunteers his professional services, Bruce Hampson (who is also serving on the Comstock committee), and his co-chair, Karen Birck, we know it will be done right and on budget.

The Comstock project is likewise highly important. Again, it benefits from a very accomplished Building Committee chair, Judith Zucker, and again, it is designed to rectify major deficiencies even as it significantly improves utilization of the building. The portion most directly addressed dates from the 1950s and served our town very well as an elementary school for 26 years. Now, many modifications are required to meet code and to make it a well-functioning space that is also environmentally and economically efficient. The newer portion, now 17 years old, will also have elements in it addressed, as part of a comprehensive vision for the whole building.

There is no question that Comstock is truly a community center in every sense of the word, as it serves important community needs for everyone from young children to senior citizens in their 90s. The building also houses the essential Social Services and Parks and Recreation functions for our town and our town’s very well-organized, effective and necessary food pantry.

With Turner Construction acting as construction manager as it has on other well-run town building projects, we are in good hands, and its estimates for construction costs have been independently confirmed by another estimating firm that has arrived at almost exactly the same results.

The proposed renovations will replace HVAC systems that are failing even now and will also add a sprinkler system much needed for fire safety and to make the building fully handicapped-accessible — which for a building serving in part as a senior center is clearly an essential facility standard. The building will be significantly cheaper to run from a utilities-cost standpoint as a result of the new HVAC system with a high-efficiency boiler and hot water distribution system combined with a heat-recovery ventilation system, a digital building-control system, new double-glazed windows, high-efficiency lighting, and other energy-efficiency features. That means long-term savings in operating costs and provides yet another reason for doing this renovation now.

The building will also be technologically upgraded with a wireless environment throughout and PA systems that can be keyed to the individual needs of various sections of the building, so that, for example, the senior-center wing will not be hearing messages meant for Parks and Recreation’s children and youth programs. The building’s emergency sheltering features (which CERT has found so helpful even now) will be further improved with showers for public use, and CERT itself will have space there. Security as well as convenience, attractiveness, and energy-saving will be enhanced with new entrance vestibules, and a much-needed upgrading and expansion of the bathroom facilities will also be made, including the addition of a bathroom on the lower level that seniors will particularly welcome.

As Building Committee Chair Zucker has said, “This work will bring the Comstock building back to life for the many in our community who use it.” The same will also be true for Miller-Driscoll, which, properly renovated, will so much better serve the needs of our youngest students.

Both of these projects deserve our votes — this week for Comstock, and in September for Miller-Driscoll.

 

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.