Not Enough Funds for Repairs at Connecticut Schools

MANCHESTER, Conn. — Schools in the Manchester School District in Connecticut are facing some serious problems. Leaking roofs, failing mortar, paper-thin steam pipes and maxed-out electrical systems are all in need of attention by the district — but costs are high.

The cost to fix just the high priority items is about $10.4 million, according to district manager Richard E. Ziegler.

“Our schools are in rough shape,” said Ziegler.

Ziegler presented photos to a school board meeting showing the damage at several schools including roofs at five buildings that needed replacement and steam piping at Nathan Hale Elementary School that could fail anytime, according to Ziegler.

Nathan Hale Elementary is the most urgent project, said Ziegler. The school currently has 91-year old boilers that are in danger of collapsing. The pipes are also so thin from age that workers are unable to put a pipe wrench on them. The estimated cost just to fix critical issues at Nathan Hale is about $1 million, explained Ziegler.

“If there’s that much disrepair, they have to close a building,” said mayor Leo Diana. “I don’t know where this $10 million is going to come from.”

School officials have presented the issues to the school board back in 2011 — giving them a list of critical repairs and replacements. The board of directors took no action that left the proposal dead and the schools unable to make the necessary changes.

Board of directors’ members said they understood the schools’ needs, but wanted a more comprehensive plan of improvement, answers to questions about state reimbursement and more input from taxpayers before signing off on the improvements.

School board member and co-chair of the building and sites committee, Michael Crockett said the state would not reimburse the requested repairs unless they are part of an entire building’s “like-new” renovation.

The school board currently has almost all the funds — all but $35,000 — to make some improvements at schools. A project is underway to remove carpeting at Verplanck Elementary School that the fire marshal has deemed a tripping hazard. Carpet removal and flooring changes must be done before the beginning of the 2012 school year in August, said school officials.

Parents attended the presentation by Ziegler and were disappointed with the school district’s lack of action when it came to critical improvements.

“We have to start spending money,” said Stephanie Knybel, who has a child in the school system. “We have to get it across to the board of directors.”

School officials are still pushing for funds to renovate the schools in dire need of repair but will have to wait until the proposal is listed as a potential spending item on the ballot, as of now there is no predicted time for the improvements.