Submitted by Katherine LoBalbo, Cos Cob
With regards to a narrative suggesting that withholding the full appropriation was necessary otherwise, “imagine what the contractor’s estimate would have been if the full 8.1 million had been granted” it must be clarified that had the BET allocated the full request for emergency funding to the Greenwich Public Schools that decision would not correlate to any increase in potential bid amounts. Why? Because a municipal government does not run on the old adage “whoever mentions a number first loses.” Each fiscal year the Town approves millions in capital projects with confidence that responsible budgeting does not reduce our ability to negotiate a fair price.
Local precedent when an unexpected expenditure is required, particularly one that impacts services, is an interim request for funds is approved but conditioned for release by the BET. Setting the request above the anticipated final expenditure not being a mistake but by design, to mitigate paper-pushing while maintaining the BETs ultimate financial oversight and authority. In this climate, that the work will be provided under budget is fantastic news and an example of how a regulated competition of private markets worked in a time when supply chain issues and labor shortages are of known concern nationwide in the construction industry. This process, regulation, and free market competition worked hand in hand to benefit every resident of Greenwich.
What rejection of the full appropriation accomplished, along with instructions to solicit bids prior to approval of financing, was to put a ticking clock on the guarantee of the bid and progression to contract. It added hours of bureaucracy, hence the flurry of special meetings and required mobilization of hundreds of elected officials. Town Hall and Department of Education staff set aside other duties and triaged the hours of administrative work of legal noticing, rapid distribution of documents, and technical support. Red tape.
Within this context, I have witnessed and applaud the positive and respectful engagement of the greater public school community and let’s not allow a few expressions of frustration or bad apples underscore that as a whole and after a very long year the community again rallied, united, and overcame an unexpected catastrophe in the midst of a pandemic.
Engagement is valuable and will continue to be needed as the school system works to grow, because the future success of the Greenwich public schools will not be as simple as “no teachers were terminated” but requires the development of modern day learning environments, with science rooms and athletic fields, worthy of the industry leaders that Greenwich produces and Greenwich attracts.
Katherine is a registered architect with an established career in public school expansions, renovations, and new construction across the State of Connecticut.