Following the recommendation of the Board of Education, the Land Use and Building Committee of the Common Council voted to approve design “Option B” for Norwalk High School.
The committee was presented with two options by Alan Lo, the city’s buildings and facilities manager. The first would be to rebuild the high school basically in its current location and stage construction so that students could be moved to one part of the building, while work was being done on the other.
Lo said that option would be “very disruptive in terms of education” and a “very complex process” for construction that might have limited the contractors willing to bid on the project.
The second choice, Option B, will be constructed on the current football and track complex, allowing students to remain in the existing building while the new structure is being built.
“We will not impact education at all—the impact is really with the sports on site,” Lo said.
He acknowledged that many parents had voiced concerns about the athletic facilities. Lo said the city would try to reduce the impacts as much as possible, including by providing a separate bus company to take the student-athletes to practice.
Councilman Tom Keegan raised some concerns about the overall price tag of the project. The city received special legislation to reimburse up to 80% of $189 million for the cost of the project, but the overall project is projected to cost about $225 million.
“There’s no guarantee that they’ll go above the $189 million,” Keegan said. “What will happen if they say no?”
He added later, “I would hate for us to make a vote on this based on a guess or a promise—I just don't think it’s a prudent move.”
Lo and Jim Giuliano, president of Construction Solutions Group, which has been managing the Norwalk school construction project, did emphasize that Norwalk did at least have that 80% commitment from the state written in special legislation. Federal authorities are currently investigating funding for school construction projects across the state, as well as the state’s former deputy budget director Kosta Diamantis, according to CT Mirror.
“The funding—the 80% has gone through the state legislature—not someone in the state saying (it),” Lo said.
Members of the committee also voiced their support for Giuliano, after he and his firm were listed in subpoena documents, according to CT Mirror.
CT Mirror reported that the subpoena last fall asked the state for “any communication that took place between Diamantis and two of the top executives with Construction Solutions Group.”
Lo said that because of the investigation into Diamantis, the authorities are gathering information from communities and that’s why Giuliano’s name and his firm’s name came up.
“It’s not a challenge to the firm’s credibility—the feds are looking to build a case and find information,” he said.
Council President Tom Livingston, who chairs the Land Use Committee, said that he had “full confidence in Jim and his team.”
“Jim has responded to some of the allegations made about him and his firm that are unfounded,” Livingston said. “I have found him to be a man of the highest integrity.”
Keegan and Councilwoman Barbara Smyth also seconded Livingston’s praise of Giuliano, who thanked the members for their support.