The following post was submitted on Sept. 21 by Frank Farricker, Democrat candidate for Greenwich First Selectman:
As a resident of Greenwich and a parent in the school system, I am shocked that the Board of Education has neither pursued financial savings with the New Lebanon School construction plan, nor the needs of the families in the Byram community.
Currently, the Board of Education will not proceed with “off-site” construction, which would save the Greenwich taxpayers more than $12 million, as well as significantly minimize the educational disruption to New Lebanon families.
It baffles me that the Republican leadership in Greenwich and their hand-picked School Board Chairman, Barbara O’Neill, would embrace a plan that would cost taxpayers at least more than $12 million in additional costs. The School Board is accountable to the community, not to itself alone. The School Board needs to be fiscally responsible, and it is shocking that it will not even consider this common sense approach to saving Greenwich needed funds.
Not only is the financial cost high, but the disruption that will affect the almost 300 New Lebanon students as they are shuttled to other schools or trailer modular classrooms is unacceptable. The School Board needs to do the right thing for the kids and their families at New Lebanon. That starts with responsibly and significantly reducing the amount of time they will be disrupted. Not doing so amounts to both educational and financial malpractice. This tax-saving and time-saving plan is virtually a no-brainer.
If the history of construction projects in Greenwich is any guide, we have a hard time being positive regarding school construction. Over the last eight years, each and every valuable project from Hamilton Avenue School, to the Public Safety Center, to MISA have experienced significant time delays and huge cost overruns both foreseen and unforeseen costing the taxpayers many, many millions of dollars we could have used to address other critical projects. If we can break the mold and do New Lebanon right, the taxpayers and families in Byram will benefit greatly. Regarding the process of building the school in this manner, off-site construction is working pretty well at Greenwich Country Day School, and the finest architects and builders use the process. There is no magic in whatever plan the School Board has proposed.
Let’s not make the same mistake again. The School Board needs to think of the kids and the taxpayers first.