During a Board of Selectmen meeting on Thursday, held on Zoom, the board had its “first read” of the Cardinal Stadium project, which is proposed in two phases.
Architect Russ Davidson of KG&D said the request for Municipal Improvement for Phase 1 includes new bleachers with buildings underneath, press box, elevator, and handicapped parking.
With the bleachers being condemned, the fact that the campus is closed through at least May 20, if not longer, is difficult to reconcile with the rental fees for the scaffolding that is shoring them up.
The BOE is currently paying $6,800 to rent the scaffolding to make the bleachers usable.
First Selectman Camillo asked about removing the scaffolding.
“No one is on those fields right now, and might not be for several months,” he said. “Couldn’t the town get those payments suspended?”
Board of Education Chair Peter Bernstein said if the town suspends the payments, the company would remove the shoring, which removes ability to use the bleachers at all, including graduation for the class of 2020.
“What would you do going into the fall? Do you have to re-shore up the bleachers if we don’t get requisite approvals and our order in in time to get bleachers manufactured and installed?” Bernstein asked.
Phase 2 includes elements that involve Wetlands, which is a more involved process. Phase 2 also includes a roadway and bridge over the creek to connect the back parking lot at GHS to the stadium and a “right turn in/right turn out” egress to East Putnam Ave, as well as relocating tennis courts to wetlands buffer areas.
Camillo said the second egress made sense and sympathized with neighbors on Hillside. He asked when the MI for phase 2 would be ready for the approvals process.
Davidson said he could return with a complete package in June, that the approvals process could be complete in 9 months, and construction could start in 2021.
On Tuesday, after Davidson presented the two-phase project to the P&Z, the commission was united in wanting to include the driveway and second campus egress to Putnam Ave include in Phase 1.
P&Z was disappointed the proposal did not include feedback from the Dept of Transportation, considering the “right turn in, right turn out” is via a state road. They agreed when neighbors urged that the campus should have a second egress to alleviate congestion on Hillside and increase safety, especially in the event of a lockdown.
Commissioner Fox said phase 1 intensifies use of the stadium and feared parents and Uber drivers would drop off and pick up students there.
Davidson told the Selectmen, “It seems clear P&Z would like whatever is going to take place at that curb cut is done now, so they have an assurance that CT Dept of Transportation is on board.”
“The BOE has decided to gate that parking lot,” he said. “This would not impact the daily life of the high school or become a daily nuisance because it is a little difficult to observe.”
Davidson said a draft study on the impact of the “right turn in/right turn out,” both short term for phase 1 and long term for phase 2, are just two weeks from completion, and that all the traffic counts and observations are complete.
BOE member Joe Kelly who was the longtime GHS rugby coach urged the Selectmen to approve the MI with phase 1 as is.
“The road project has a lot of work ahead of us.”
He noted the road includes a bridge with an estimated cost of between $750,000 and $3 million.
“We’re not even close on the second phase. We’re talking about moving tennis courts. We don’t know what we’re going to do with them,” he said.
Kelly said it was urgent to move the bleachers project along quickly, because it was possible to have them installed by mid September.
“This is essentially a shovel ready project,” he said. “We’re in the process of picking out possibly as minute details as doorknobs for doors and hinges on the lockers and things like that.”
“We can’t hold this up because of some controversy that might exist,” he said. However, he added, “I don’t want want any neighbors supporting this road project to think the importance becomes less.”
Mr. Bernstein said there is an immediate need to address the bleachers.
“The bleachers are 50 years old,” he said. “The bleachers and I are the same age.”
“Every student graduates from GHS at Cardinal Stadium, so it’s something the entire community benefits from,” he added.
The Selectmen next meet on April 23.