Letters: Miller-Driscoll Building Project

(Editors’ note: The following letters are printed in the order they were received.)


Please accept this letter as my expression of support for the general renovations and security enhancements proposed towards Miller-Driscoll School. I reach this conclusion from the dual perspective of a town resident/taxpayer and as long-term law enforcement professional.

My husband and I have resided in Wilton since 1987. Our son attended Wilton public schools. His educational base and the cultural benefits derived from this system allowed his matriculation into college and graduation with honors. Wilton schools have been the best! We continue to live in and love this community and in spite of no longer having children in the school system we strongly believe in its continued quality.

As a Wilton Security Task Force member and participant in the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee, I am dedicated to the security, safety, success and care of our students and to the teachers and support staff who work with them. Part of the design team goal is to develop the safest campus possible at Miller-Driscoll. Considerable work has gone into that effort identifying current site-specific vulnerabilities, both exterior and interior that need be addressed. These range from consolidation of entries and new vehicular routes to play areas relocated away from public access, a streamlined façade providing better “natural and mechanical surveillance” of the campus to a mass communication system and hardened interior components. We must provide for students of all ages a guarantee of optimal learning experiences and safe environment. The proposed building is designed to enhance learning opportunities providing flexible spaces that will promote current and evolving educational practices for years to come. The proposed campus design will serve the school and community by improving traffic flow and emergency access.

The Tai Soo Kim Partners design meets and in some instances exceeds areas of critical compliance; school safety infrastructure standards mandated by Connecticut that a district must address to be eligible for a school construction grant.

As a professional with 25 years in federal law enforcement and an additional seven with state homeland security, I view enhancements proposed for Miller-Driscoll as not negotiable. They are simply required. Security measures incorporated from the onset into the renovation plan are the most effective and efficient way of implementation. This is my expert opinion.

While we face financial challenges I fully support and thank the efforts of the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee and Tai Soo Kim in providing a comprehensive and holistic design resulting in a modern, healthy and critically as important, safe and secure Miller-Driscoll. The renovation proposal will benefit not only the students but the greater Wilton community at large. Let us all move forward in nurturing our valued resources —  our children, our schools — in the safe environment that this day and age demand.

Please on Sept. 27 vote and encourage others to vote “yes” in support of the Miller-Driscoll project.

Terrie Schwartz

Miller-Driscoll support

I am grateful the Wilton Board of Finance, Wilton Board of Selectmen and Wilton Board of Education all have unanimously endorsed critical upgrades to Miller-Driscoll School. It is the right thing to do for both Wilton’s children and our concerned taxpayers. I am glad to hear the Wilton Democratic Town Committee and state representative candidate Keith Rodgerson have also lent their full support. As a concerned parent, Keith has our children’s best interests in mind. Where do the Wilton GOP and State Rep. Gail Lavielle stand on the issue? Taxpayers want to know.

Cliff Robbins

Plan is folly

You’ve heard the now famous quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald (“The Crack-Up,” Esquire Magazine, February 1936):

“The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

We want to thank you, both meeting audiences and readers at home, for hearing our arguments and understanding our position. On behalf of TASC (Toward A Stronger Community) and Sensible Wilton we appreciate your exercising that ability, and for helping to build a stronger town through this dialogue.

We will soon come to realize that Wilton is in fact subject to the same ills, all the imperfections, and the identical types of errors (and wrongdoings) experienced by every other community. This particular construction project is but another example of heading in the wrong direction. Your “no” vote can halt the erosion of trust, the perpetuation of waste, and the arrogance of those who would tell us: “if we wanted your opinion we would have asked for it.”

This proposal turns reason on its head. It’s a topsy-turvy proposition. It’s a Humpty-Dumpty plan, and has been from the outset. And as that quaint old nursery rhyme would put it:

“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put M-D together again.”

Joe Brenner

At what cost?

Everyone including “Sensible Wilton” agrees Miller-Driscoll needs a renovation. How and at what cost is the question.

Ken Dartley

Paying more for less

Miller-Driscoll needs major system upgrades to protect the health and safety of our youngest students. But the current proposal costs too much, takes too long and does not provide value.

Can Wilton’s youngest children wait four years for basic repairs to what town officials describe as a roof in “failure mode” and an HVAC system that “does not meet code”?

Fifty million dollars for a smaller school? The renovation will reduce space for K-2 students. While the preschool is expanding, the 900 K-2 students are losing space. Miller-Driscoll will cost twice as much as the 1998 high school project — but that expanded the high school. Why pay $50 million more for less?

Is spending $50 million to demolish the newest sections of the school to make hallways straight and improve sight lines a wise investment?

Cafeteria reduced. The two existing cafeterias will be removed and a smaller cafeteria will be built. Why pay for less space?

Reduced outdoor play areas. Relocation of recess to the “back” for “security” doesn’t result in significant security improvement given the new access road. Children will lose recess on flat playing fields given the “back’s” sloped landscape.

Cost/lifespan: To increase useful life 25 years, a $50-million renovation is expensive. How can officials claim their proposal is the most cost effective when they only considered three options? Spending $50 million for a preschool that serves two half-day classes of 30 students is a costly investment that is bound to compromise upper grade programs for all 4,000 Wilton students.

To protect our children, Wilton needs to fix the roof and HVAC systems now, not in four years. To protect property values and improve our “gateway” school, Wilton needs real solutions, not a 25-year patch for $50 million. Wilton can offer a better solution for students and taxpayers. Wilton children deserve better.

Marissa Lowthert

Tear down or rebuild?

Miller-Driscoll is by far the largest spending proposal ever put before Wilton voters (two times more than the high school renovation). Voters are asking: “How did it get so expensive?” The simple answer: Even though the project was intended as a “renovation,” it became a “tear down and rebuild.”

The original “renovation requirement” was to replace the roof/HVAC system and repair the building envelope to make it watertight. An excellent forensic study by Hoffman Architects rated the building envelope solid and detailed repair/maintenance needs: total estimated cost of around $500,000. Sadly, the Town/Turner deliberately excluded roof and HVAC systems from the Hoffman study. But Wilton’s future capital budget for Middlebrook has shown the cost of new roof and HVAC systems there at an estimated $3 million.

So we have about $3.5 million for the basic renovation. Let’s add new wiring, sprinkler system, latest high-security door locks, maybe some exterior paving and whatever else you might think of. Let’s run the cost up to $10 million for the renovation. But where is the other $40 million?

I would argue it’s all (or mostly all) in the teardown and rebuild part of the project. Two structures in the Miller-Driscoll complex are to be demolished: the pre-K building and the Peach Core. Both are casualties of the “line of sight” concept. What is that? Ever since Newtown, “security experts” have arrived to tell us how to better protect our children. (I would argue that a “security tyranny” has emerged.) If somehow a building or other structure prevents seeing from here to there, that building or structure must be demolished. (“Off with their heads,” said the red queen.)

Evil doers might hide in the shadows of the pre-K building (and besides we need more parking, 24 spaces to be exact in the paved-over burial place of the pre-K building). That the Hoffman report called the Peach Core the best built, best condition structure at M-D doesn’t save it. One of the offices sticks out a bit into a long hallway. Actually this hallway will run the length of the “new” Miller-Driscoll. Shall we name it the $25-million hallway?

Dividends are claimed from these teardowns. Five new pre-K classrooms are to be built (but you’re going to tear down five pre-K classrooms in the pre-K building). We will have a new cafeteria (we’ll need one because you’re going to tear down one of the two existing cafeterias that is in the pre-K building).

Parking and traffic congestion are major issues at M-D. A large parking area (about 150 spaces), mostly empty during school hours, exists across Wolfpit at the Hope Church. Possible integration with M-D to alleviate parking needs and traffic congestion has not been studied. Such integration could be planned so that only cars (not kids ) crossed Wolfpit.

Fiscal restraint has been absent from the planned M-D “renovation.”  Wilton has its own case of “The Emperor’s Clothes.”

Curtis Noel