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Confusion Surrounding Peck Place Project Squelched
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent
In a social-media infused flurry of confusion, rumors and even threats by residents to leave Orange behind, town and school administrators set the record straight about the asbestos remediation project at Peck Place School at a special meeting called by the Board of Selectmen on February 19, saying panic was not necessary; they just needed more information before recommending the Board of Finance fund the project. At press time, Board of Education Director of Finance Kevin McNabola expected the project to cost just under $2 million. The three-phase project needs approvals from the Board of Education, the Board of Selectmen and ultimately, the Board of Finance, which was meeting just after press time.
Before an audience of more than 100 parents, teachers and board of education members, First Selectman James Zeoli said, “When we’re protecting and spending your money, we need the best possible capabilities. I never said we were going to not fix the school. Many things have been misunderstood.”
Zeoli refers to his address at the February 10 Board of Education meeting where he said dropping enrollment numbers make him wonder if the time might be right to consolidate four schools into three by moving the kindergarten children into each of their appropriate schools, and possibly turn MLT over to Peck Place School and knock Peck Place School down. In response, Superintendent of Schools Lynn McMullin drafted a contingency plan, in the event that Peck Place School was unavailable for students in September. The result was three jam-packed schools, not a favorable solution for anyone involved, least of all, Orange’s elementary students. In an introduction to the plan, McMullin said her team, “approached the task dutifully and with diligence, but with heavy hearts.”
Two days later, at the special Board of Selectmen meeting to discuss the Peck Place project, Zeoli said, “My job is to pose the questions, not to bring the data and homework, but to have the board consider all of the options,” he said. “Every one of us is concerned with the town, you and your children. This board is looking out for you and the other 13,000 people who are not in this room,” he joked. “We just needed more information.”
Peck Place School was damaged by flooding the morning of January 6, as children returned to school after the holiday break. Freezing temperatures caused two pipes to burst at the school, allowing thousands of gallons of water to flow in through the ceilings of classrooms leaving the entire school flooded with water. As the building was dried, floor tiles with adhesive containing asbestos began to crack and though air quality tests came back negative, indicating asbestos had not yet seeped into the air, administration decided on a permanent replacement of the floors which would involve a lengthier closing of the school for an abatement project.
At the February 19 meeting, Facilities Director Mike Luzzi explained that there was not decent enough insulation to protect the pipes from freezing. “The buildings were checked at 1 p.m. Sunday. At some point when the temperature went above 32 degrees, the pipes burst. For eight years, I’ve been trying to protect these buildings like my own house,” Luzzi said. When asked if there is a plan in place to make sure this doesn’t happen at the other two elementary schools, he said he will work on a plan.
“This is a unique project that you didn’t want or need, but we’re stuck with it,” said Santo Manicome, a consultant with Facility Support Services who is working on the project with the Department of Health. Asbestos will be removed from other areas of the school as part of this project, but the school will not be asbestos free. “I haven’t met too many asbestos free buildings,” Manicone said. He assured residents and the board that the building will be clean and safe when it is reopened.
Once the project receives all necessary board approvals, any money spent will come from the town’s fund balance, money that is intended as a ‘rainy day fund’ for events such as this, according to McNabola. At a later date, once work is complete and any state and insurance reimbursements are made; the town would have an option to bond the amount of the project and replace the funds to the account. McNabola assured the crowd that the project would be complete before school starts next fall. “It has to be ready, we don’t have a choice,” he said.
!!!!!! BREATHE, BALANCE, BELIEVE Vinyasa Yoga for the Family, Mondays @ 5:15- 6:15 pm, Saturdays 9:00- 10:00 am, in the Parish hall, Church of the Good Shepherd 680 Racebrook Road, designed to help children and adults strengthen both physically and mentally, participants practice at their own level, teacher is certified and member RYT. Please bring a yoga mat and blocks if you have them.
Nicotine Anonymous Meetings, Mondays, 6:30 – 7:30pm, Trinity Lutheran Church, 21 Robert Treat Parkway, Milford, open to all, no dues or fees, only requirement is the desire to be free of nicotine. For more information, call Bridges, 203-878-6365.
Zumba Gold Classes at Congregation Or Shalom, Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7 p.m., Congregation Or Shalom, 205 Old Grassy Hill Road, simple and easy routines to follow, designed for people of all ages and no experience is needed. If interested, call Robin at 203.314.8176 or temple office at 203.799.2341.
Clean Energy Task Force of Orange, meets on the third Tuesday of every month at HPCC, 525 Orange Center Road, conference room, 8 o'clock. The public is invited.
Orange Arts & Culture Council meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month, 7:30pm, HPCC, 525 Orange Center Road, check chalk board for meeting room. The public is invited.
Orange Recycling Committee meets every 3rd Wednesday except for January, July & August, 7pm, HPCC conference room, 525 Orange Center Road, public is invited to attend. For more information, email Orangerecycles@gmail.com.
Blood Pressure Clinic presented by Gentiva & Maplewood of Orange, 1st Thursday of every month, Maplewood of Orange (formerly Laurel Estates), 245 Indian River Road, 1:30-2:30pm in the Community Room. No appointment necessary.
The Rotary Club of Orange meets every Friday, 12:15pm at the Racebrook Country Club, 246 Derby Avenue; prospective new members may contact Diane Eger at 203-530-4526 or visit www.orangectrotary.org for information about the club.
Orange Historical Society Academy Antique & Gift Shop Museum, open Saturdays, 10:00am-3:00pm. For information call 203-795-3106.
Milford Chamber Of Commerce’s “Good Morning Milford” Seminar And Round Table Discussion,. “Making the Most of Your Marketing Investment” presented by Robert Kademian, Chief Marketing Officer, ROI Marketing of New England, LLC Friday, February 28, 2014, 8:30am-9:30am, Milford Chamber of Commerce, 5 Broad Street, Milford, no charge for this event. RSVP is required by emailing email@example.com or calling 203-878-0681.
Saint Ann Church Health and Wellness Fair, for people of all ages between 10:000am- 1:00pm, Saturday, March 29, 2014, Parish Center, 501 Naugatuck Avenue, Milford. Participants include the Alzheimer's Association, CT Chapter; American Liver Foundation, CT Chapter, American Parkinson Disease Association, CT Chapter; Bridges, A Community Support System; Connecticut Association of Adult Day Centers; Connecticut Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped; Connecticut Office of Tourism; Corazon Family Fitness (ongoing ZUMBA demos for adults and children); Costco, Crohn's & Colitis Foundation; Donate Life CT, Energize Connecticut; Griffin Hospital Mobile Health Resource Van (osteoporosis screening, breast wellness, and medication management); Milford Health Department (Putting on AIRS Asthma Program); Milford Human Services, Milford Senior Center; Mothers Against Drunk Driving; Safe Kids CT (car seat safety); Shop Rite (nutritionist); South Central Area Agency on Aging; St. Ann Parish Nurses (blood pressure screenings); St. Luke's Elder Care Services (Gatekeeper Program); St. Vincent's Health Services Cardiology (blood sugar screenings - fasting recommended); Walgreen's Pharmacy (pharmacist); and Yale New Haven Hospital Lifeline Medical Alert as wellas several speakers on health and safety-related topics and an indoor obstacle course of children. This program is free of charge and open to the public. For additional information, please contact Maria Tomasetti, firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-988-8598.