In less than two months, residents here will know whether the will become 11,700 square feet larger than it is today.
, the Town Council unanimously sent the $45 million question of whether to renovate and expand the 30-year-old school to the voters, asking them to decide the project's future at a June 5 town-wide referendum.
The state is expected to reimburse the town about 44 percent of the project's costs, leaving taxpayers here to pay the remaining $28.55 million. The referendum question will include the cost of the separate water boiler for the pool ($64,014) and the addition of 60 parking spaces to the school ($230,452) for total of about $295,000.
At the Deputy Mayor Timothy Moriarty supported adding the parking spaces and the pool water boiler as well as replacing the ($230,452) and five tennis courts ($320,072). However, he said he received several phone calls and emails over the past few days from residents who said the cost of the renovation was too high and they would not support the referendum.
“I don’t want to see this project fail,” said Moriarty, who got visibly upset throughout the meeting. “I don’t want to make a motion that makes this whole project fail.”
Councilor Frank Szeps said that having the boiler closer to the pool will be more efficient and will lead to savings for the town.
“As for the parking lot, I don’t have to say anything,” Szeps said.
Resident Frank Simboski told those in attendance that he thinks they need at least 3,000 votes to get the referendum to pass and demanded that people take action over the next six weeks to get them.
“It’s not going to happened, if we just assume it will,” Simboski said.
Many councilors said that they would help with acquiring voters who support the project and getting them to the polls on June 5.
“I support this referendum and I am going to work as hard as I can to get votes,” said Councilor Larrye deBear. Mayor Anthony LaRosa agreed to help as well.
“We can’t correct the past,” he said. “But we can fix the future.”
LaRosa said they needed support from the largest voting group in town, the senior citizens. Some seniors in attendance said that it was time to “pay it forward” and support the referendum because someone paid for their education.
One of the people leading the charge to get more voters in support of the project is “Stay Accredited” Chairman Todd Cusano. The political action committee made it its mission to garner enough support from residents to pass any referendum question that keeps the high school accredited and addresses the He said the referendum is more than a school problem, it is a town issue.
“People from all across town have come together to do something about the high school,” Cusano said. He added that it is “a critical time in the town’s history” and not passing the referendum could affect real estate, the business community and population.
More than 25 parents, residents, seniors and students came to the podium during the one and half hour public hearing to show their support for the project. Many people told the council that they chose to raise their families in Rocky Hill because of the school system.
“Let’s make Rocky Hill a place to move to, not a town to move away from,” said Lisa Brady, mother of two children.
Many parents also informed the council that they had taken their children out of the school system because of failing building conditions. All residents in town still have to pay for those students to attend magnet schools in the area.
An activist group of about 20 students came in support of the referendum and explained the struggles that they face on a daily basis. They explained how students would benefit from many of the items in the NEASC report, such as the HVAC system, chemistry labs, textbooks and ADA standards, being addressed.
“Our goal is to promote the student voice on this issue,” said group organizer James Wang. He explained that no one in his group would ever get to experience the changes in the school.
“It just goes to show how committed we feel to this issue and how we feel responsible to provide a better community for our brothers and sisters,” Wang said.
Many of the council members told the crowd of more than 300 people that they felt the town would pass this referendum because it focuses on the needs in the NEASC report. One of those councilors was Joe Kochanek, who did not support the previous referendums because they were too vague, complex and expensive.
“This time you did a fantastic job,” he told the public and Board of Education. “This thing needs to get done.”
Councilor Nadine Bell said the cost of project is a huge consideration for many of the residents in town. She added that cost of not doing the project outweighs the cost of actually doing the renovation of the high school.
“This is our community building,” Bell said.