School board reviews five-year capital projects

Wilton’s public schools could see major improvements over the next five years, including roofs, elevators and emergency power.
The Board of Education reviewed a draft of its five-year operating capital budget at its meeting Thursday night, Feb. 7. As part of this plan, Director of Facilities Chris Burney presented the five-year capital projects that would be proposed for financing through bonds, or borrowing. This plan highlighted some of the major projects that could occur in the near future.
One such project is the replacement of school roofs, Burney said. Over the course of five years the district could spend around $2,600,000 to complete this process.
“The high school, Cider Mill and Middlebrook have roofs that go back to the ’90s,” Burney said, adding it was important this is addressed sooner than later.
Replacing the roofs would allow for the town to start placing solar panels on the schools. Burney said the addition of solar panels would help to reduce utility costs for the district. In addition to this, Middlebrook and Cider Mill could see their HVAC units replaced. Currently, not all of the areas are air conditioned, he said.
Burney described Middlebrook and Cider Mill’s air conditioning systems as inefficient. The air conditioning system in the schools depends on 100% fresh air. Comparatively, an operating room in a hospital brings in 20%t fresh air and re-circulates 80% of the air.
“We need to get to a system that does that because that will literally save 60% of the utility costs,” Burney said.
The project would cost $2,100,000 to complete. Burney said $100,000 would be spent in the fiscal year 2022 to design the project, with $1 million planned to be spent in both 2023 and 2024.
Another improvement to be made is a replacement of the high school elevators. Burney said Connecticut changed its high school elevator codes and the change is mandated. There are three elevators in the high school that were installed in the early ’70s, he said.
“I’m planning to replace one this summer and two next summer,” Burney said.
For the elevators, the plan is to budget $200,000 for the 2020 fiscal year and $350,000 for the 2021 fiscal year. There would also be $200,000 budgeted for the fiscal year 2022 to upgrade the elevators at Cider Mill, Burney said.
Emergency power for Middlebrook and Cider Mill is also planned. As it stands now, neither of the schools has emergency power.
“If we have an ice storm and the power goes out for a week or three days and it’s zero or whatever that temperature is outside we’re going to freeze the school,” Burney said, adding the school could be offline for weeks or even months.
Board member Deborah Low said while this hasn’t happened yet, there’s good rationale to make this improvement. She added the risks could be too big to not add the emergency power.
Burney said after losing power at Middlebrook for a day this past year was a wake-up call. For this project, $50,000 would be required in the fiscal year 2020 and then $400,000 apiece for 2021 and 2022.
“At the end of the day, we’ll have more environmentally friendly, brighter looking and cleaner schools,” Burney said.
The Board of Education will vote on the five-year capital budget and capital projects at its meeting on Feb. 21.