Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Delay Decision on Bleacher Project Amid Cost Concerns


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LYME/OLD LYME — Despite being presented with a lower price tag for a turf field and soccer field bleachers, several Board of Education members called the cost is still unreasonably high.   

The district originally budgeted $140,000 for the bleachers, but the school district received news in October that the cost had more than tripled to $467,000. After initially approving the bid, the board changed its mind at the following meeting, and district administrators modified the plan for construction. 

The new bid at $297,000, from the engineering firm SLR, includes premade bleachers rather than the custom-made style the district initially planned to order. 

But school board members said Wednesday that the cost was still too high. 

“I’m really glad that we went out to bid again … and that it’s a lower number. But it is mind-boggling how expensive this is. It seems sort of crazy,” member Laura Dean-Frazier said. 

Before voting on the project, member Chris Staab said he wanted more data on the fields’ usage.

“Do we really need them? How many people attend these games?” Staab asked. “It’s a lot of money to spend if we don’t even have any of that data.”

Facilities Director Ron Turner said the fields hosted about 20 games per season, or 40 games per school year. Superintendent Ian Neviaser said that number didn’t include community use. 

“The community is very interested in using the turf field. You can’t keep them off it,” Neviaser said.

Community members are allowed to use the field for free, while outside groups must pay. 

Student representatives to the board said attendance tended to be higher at basketball and hockey games, but that parents and siblings frequently attended games on the field and would appreciate having a place to sit. 

“I know that whenever I would go past a lacrosse game or a soccer game, there would be a lot of parents in their lawn chairs or on the fence. People sit on the fence,” said Chloe Datum, a junior at Lyme Old Lyme High School. 

“ [It’s] a major complaint that we get from parents and other community members who come to games — that there’s nowhere to sit back there,” Neviaser said.  

Board members asked about reducing the cost further, but Turner said that a significant portion of the expense was due to leveling the sloped site for disability access.

“I can just remember from the times when my children were playing sports, even my elderly parents struggled to get to the field, and I think they would have come more often given a better access,” said board member Susan Fogliano. 

“Anybody with any kind of equipment can’t get out to the back to the games — it’s too difficult with any kind of equipment. Which is really a sad thing, that they can’t access these things going on like everybody else can,” Dean-Frazier added. 

The new design reduced the number of bleacher seats from 350 to 250, and Neviaser said reducing them further wasn’t an option. 

“There are games where the bleachers at the track field are completely full, and these would be the same size. … So reducing seating I’m not sure is advisable because I think that you’re going to run into the same issue,” Neviaser said. 

Staab floated the idea of splitting the project to spread the cost, but Fogliano warned that the district budget was already increasing substantially next year due to the cost of school renovations. 

“Being that … in the future budgets we’re going to have the whack of debt service, maybe it’s best that we bite the bullet, complete the project,” she said. 

The board voted 6-2 to postpone a vote on the new bid until its next meeting, or until a special meeting can be called to address the issue. 

Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.