A long awaited and much anticipated high school renovation is finally underway in one shoreline town.
While some in West Haven question if the city's finances are in order for the big project, the mayor says they couldn't afford to not do the renovation.
Originally pitched in 2009, the plan will renovate about 98,000 square feet of the current building, demolish the rest and build 168,000 square feet of new space, including a cutting edge media center, classrooms, and labs focusing on science, technology, math, and engineering.
"We had to go back to the drawing board a little bit a few years ago, ended up getting our arms around it, the financing so it’s not going to be a cost to the city tax payers, there aren't any more tax increases due to the school being built,” said West Haven Mayor Ed O’Brien.
Built in 1960, the high school was last renovated in 2005.
Now the state will reimburse the city for 75 percent of the $133 million project, and once it’s done, everything inside will be brand new.
"The first thing that attracts you to a school is the building and the equipment and I felt like we were at the point where we weren't able to compete anymore and it’s something that's long overdue,” said West Haven Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro.
Political opponents have questioned whether the city in its financial situation can afford to take on the bonding for a $133 million project.
That's because an audit showed West Haven ran a $2-and-a-half million operating deficit last fiscal year, raising the general fund deficit to just under $17 million.
"First of all, we need a school, we can't afford not to do it, but the city's finances we have 75 percent reimbursement from the state of Connecticut. Of our 25percent, we phased it in when older debt is dropping off, so we don't have to have a tax increase,” O’Brien said.
There will be a public information session for parents and students to learn about the project and ask questions next month.
The entire project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2021.
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