September 24, 2008

Streifer, mayor disgagree on need for speed on decision

Keeton said she is not concerned about the Crowley site.
O’Brien said the district has to build two new schools to have room for the students.
Streifer said that finances are a consideration. Any change to the plan submitted to the state “effectively forfeits” the expected reimbursement rate.
“We’ll never see 73.9 percent reimbursement rate again,” Streifer said.
Streifer said that it would cost $93 million to $100 million to renovate the four old schools. It will take as much as $130 million to build the two new schools, he said.
Weiner said the size of the site may be an issue.
He said the site would take 19 to 24 acres, according to the feasibility study.
The building itself takes 3 acres, with parking and such taking perhaps another 5 acres, Weiner said.
He said he wants to know how the size of the fields was determined.
The universe of sites considered would be greater if the acreage could be lower, Weiner said. “There may be more choices,” Weiner said.
O’Brien said there is no requirement for a specific number of fields. He said that officials figured it had to be at least 17 acres, which meant the mall site and the Divinity Street location could be considered.
But, he said, there is a critical field shortage “so we should maximize” what could be part of the project.
O’Brien said an original plan to build a new O’Connell School by taking housing along Park Street was shot down by the state because of the possibility of flooding.
At Scalia and Roberts, there is room for more fields so officials figured they might as well maximize the number of fields so the state would help pay for needed new fields.
There is no requirement for fields, O’Brien said.
Streifer said that once fields are included, there have to be enough to offer equal access to boys and girls.
City Engineer Paul Strawderman said there has been a lot of discussion about the planning panel’s role.
But one item that hasn’t been talked about is whether the city should buy this property rather than purchasing a different one, Strawderman said.
He said it would take a lot to convince him that the extra costs to make the Scalia site useable in terms of infrastructure should be ignored.
The city engineer said he wanted to know how Greene-Hills got added.
O’Brien said it was added later, before any decisions were made.
Streifer said that Strawderman is “exactly right” in considering the cost of the property, but “what we’re all facing as a community is that every cost decision we make now” is that given timelines to make deadline of June 13, 2010, the city needs sites, architectural plans and a contractor to build it.
“All that has to happen by June 13, 2010 or the city forfeits” the reimbursement rate, Streifer said.
Mayor Art Ward, by the way, told me earlier today that the deadline could be extended. Streifer didn’t mention that possibility in his testimony tonight.

Update at 9:03 --
Streifer said he thinks the project will cost about $130 million.
Weiner said the state won’t reimburse for costs to improve streets and infrastructure off the site.
Streifer said that’s true.
So apparently there are millions of dollars in other improvements that would be needed that don’t count in the Scalia site cost.
Because of the high reimbursement rate, “This is an opportunity that we as a community can’t turn down.””I wish we weren’t facing that deadline, but it’s there. It’s real,” Streifer said.
Costs will rise 7 to 10 percent annually, he said, and the reimbursement rate will be lower if the city fails to meet the deadline, the superintendent said.

Update at 9:09 --
Veits said he wants to know why it took so long for the site selections to reach the Planning Commission.
Streifer reviewed the back and forth between the council and the school building committees.
Streifer said that he pushed for a decision in order to make the deadline reachable.
Veits asked how often the building panels met.
Streifer said there was “quite a bit of activity” in addition to monthly meetings.
Soares wants to know from Strawderman what he can say about the infrastructure challenge.
Strawderman said Barlow and Pequabuck streets need help.
“I wouldn’t begin to guess what it might cost to upgrade those streets,” the city engineer said.
There is a one-lane railroad overpass on Barlow that won’t be changed “no matter how much money you throw at it.”
Strawderman said there is “little or no storm drainage” in that area. Plus there’s a need for a water line.
Whether sidewalks are needed is another issue.
There are site line considerations on Clark Avenue and on Barlow Street, Strawderman said.
Any problem can be solved with enough money, he added.
Veits is now offering the audience a chance to speak.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

Why didn't the mayor tell Streiffer?

Another case of undermining.

Ward has been a part of the drag your feet team.

Anonymous said...

Streifer wants it put to bed. He doesn't want the decision dragged out any longer.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, new schools will not be built in this community for many, many years.

Renovation of new schools is not the answer. Renovate and they still sit on inadequate sites with no green space and libraries sitting below water levels.

The egoes of city officials will stand in the way of progress. All of a sudden Paul Strawderman has an opinion, so too does Weiner. Hey guys, you work for us.

Your responsibility is not whether or not these are the best sites for the schools. Your job is to advise the Planners and Zoning if these sites meet the regulations. If not, then Commissioners need to vote no. I could care less of your opinions. Are these legal sites or not, period.

If Weiner and Strawderman wish to vote on a particular site, then get appointed to the School Building Committees or run for a BOE seat. Until then, give your expert opinions on the site and whether or not it can be developed. It may have many deficiencies, as do all and any site, but that is not under your purview. Can they be overcome, yes or no? That's your job. Stick to it.

Anonymous said...

Can Ward guarantee us that the state will extend the good rate?

Or is Wardjust putting off doing anything?

Anonymous said...

"Why didn't the mayor tell Streiffer?"

Why didn't Streiffer ask? Ward isn't the problem here. This is more about a clash of egos and wishy-washy council members....too bad!

Steve Collins said...

Just to be clear, though I think I reported it in a later post... After the meeting, I asked Streifer about the possibility of an extension and told him what the mayor had said to me. Streifer said he doesn't believe the city could get an extension. He said he's never seen it happen.
I'm not sure why Ward thought it was possible, but I do know that the mayor and Streifer agreed that finding a new site quickly is now a big priority. Both of them would rather not have to ask for an extension, for obvious reasons.

Anonymous said...

Ward does not have a clue!

Anonymous said...

"Your responsibility is not whether or not these are the best sites for the schools. Your job is to advise the Planners and Zoning if these sites meet the regulations. If not, then Commissioners need to vote no. I could care less of your opinions. Are these legal sites or not, period."

Sorry, but you are wrong here. This was not a "site plan approval" venue or a "subdivision approval" venue. If it were, you would be right about focusing on whether it meets the regulations. But that was not the context of what the PC was doing last night. They were asked to make the subjective decision as to whether this is a wise step for the City to take. Weiner's comments were harsh but absolutely on point.

Anonymous said...


Where oes one start asking questions?

But, if one has pertinent information, why doesn't one share it?

Or was there an ulterior motive on the part of the mayor.

He does have a record and reputation of being a lone wolf!

former GOP council candidate said...

Once again I feel obligated to applaud Art Ward.

Anonymous said...


Sounds like Bob Merrick.

Anonymous said...

what a republican cesspool this site has become - too bad that they can't come up with anything positive, such as a full slate of viable candidates - matter of fact, just a full slate of candidates would be a positive change - maybe in the next life.

Anonymous said...


Not as long as the current crowd is in charge.

Anonymous said...

It is clear that Ward cannot be trusted.