LYME-OLD LYME — Voters in the two towns approved a $57.5 million bond referendum to fund updates and renovations at four of the five schools in the district.
In Old Lyme, voters approved the bond referendum, with about 2,200 voters in favor and just under 1,800 against. In Lyme, 785 voters were in favor of the referendum and 413 rejected it.
The funding will go toward code upgrades, boiler replacements and installing HVAC systems in Mile Creek Elementary School, Lyme Consolidated Elementary School, Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School and Center School. It will also add classrooms to Mile Creek Elementary School to accommodate a projected enrollment increase at the elementary level.
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Although the referendum is for $57.5 million, the district also expects to receive $9.7 million in reimbursement from the state.
Superintendent of Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Ian Neviaser told CT Examiner that he was happy about the results of the referendum.
“Obviously we’re pleased that people came out to support the referendum. It’s something we feel is a need for the schools,” said Neviaser. “We’re looking forward to getting started on the projects, but there’s a lot of work to do to make sure that that’s done right.”
Board Chair Steven Wilson told CT Examiner that he was committed to making sure that the funds were spent in a responsible way.
“We’re glad that everybody supported the idea of improving the schools, and going forward, we’re going to be very diligent and careful about how that money is going to be spent,” he said.
Estimates from a presentation on November 2nd to community members showed that the project could increase property taxes to residents of Old Lyme by an average of about $112 per year per $70,000 of assessed value, and in Lyme by about $88 per year per $70,000 of assessed value.
The next step is to establish a building committee, which will be responsible for overseeing each step of the project, including soliciting bids for construction management firms and then supervising the work at each of the schools. Neviaser said he hopes that at the next board of education meeting, the board will vote to establish a charter for the committee and possibly appoint members.
Neviaser said a building committee is generally made up of between 5 and 15 people and includes community members and members of the Board of Education. While the only requirement for a building committee is that there be at least one member with experience in the construction industry, Neviaser said he would love to see community members apply for the committee who have experience with commercial HVAC systems, particularly in schools.
Neviaser said that to minimize disruption, the district wanted to do most of the construction work over school vacations. In order to start the work this coming summer, Neviaser said, the building committee would need to solicit bids for architectural firms by January — a timeline that he admitted was “aggressive.”
“We’d love to get moving sooner rather than later, just because — again — this is a need,” said Neviaser.