O’Brien said that the Scalia site was picked because there were four votes for it on the City Council.
“It’s taken us 10 years to get to this point where we can have four votes on the City Council for two sites,” O’Brien said.
He said if this plan doesn’t go forward, it won’t happen in our lifetimes.
“If we don’t go forward today, we are going to be forced” to make major improvements at Bingham and O’Connell quickly, O’Brien said.
“We are now this close,” he said, and he wants planners “to look at the big picture.”
Richard Johnson of Primrose Lane said he doesn’t necessarily agree.
He said that planners need to decide “based on what you think is right.”
“We’re looking at a lot of money that’s coming our way,” Johnson said. “But the question isn’t the money. It’s what is the right thing to do.”
“What’s right is more important,” Johnson said.
He said Bristol officials say they have one of the best urban districts in the state, so why are they following New Haven and Hartford pushing for K-8.
Resident Al Cianchetti of Crown Street said the schools offer an excellent education.
He said the panel should freeze its decision and do more research so it can decide in another month.
Cianchetti said that legislators may be able to get an extension from the firm deadline that Streifer insisted on.
Cheryl Barb, a preservationist, said she is dismayed the issue didn’t come to the planning panel sooner.
Barb said that the best use of our land is important. She said that sprawl issues need to come to the board and are more important that changes in reimbursement rates.
What drives sprawl are school projects because people want to live near schools.
“The schools should be near where people live,” Barb said, not in an isolated spot.
Barb said there would be a spare building to use for renovation – the old Greene-Hills School.
Resident Tim Gamache said he is “incredulous” that Weiner was excluded from the decision-making.
“You’ve never had a project of this scope,” Gamache said, “so why would we not include the city planner in this process right from the get-go?”
Yvonne Hamm of Tulip Street said the questions asked by planners were asked by the committee at meetings, through email and in conversations over time.
Hamm said the site decisions weren’t made lightly.
Weiner said there is “a certain amount of frustration” because the commission and staff were not brought in earlier.
Weiner said he would like to believe there was no slight intended, but there is a sense of resentment because planners were not “plugged into the process.”
“It’s not a clear cut yes or no,” City Engineer Paul Strawderman said. “There’s a lot in play here.”
Dell’Aera said that “coming down back to earth” from the loftier issues, there is a big question that might have been answered earlier in the process, there has been concern about traffic and the isolation of the spot.
He said he would like to know the public safety response time for police and fire to the sites.
O’Brien said there is a firehouse on Mix Street and police “may be on site.”
Soares said he regrets that the process didn’t happen sooner. “It just compounds the difficulty of this vote,” Soares said. “We don’t deal with something of this magnitude every day.”
He said there is “too much at stake” to require a last-minute vote.
Keeton said she’s heard nothing to favor the Scalia site.
Joseph Kelaita, an alternate, said the logistics can be worked out. He said he doesn’t like the Scalia site, but it can be worked out.
“I’m totally for the expansion,” he said.“Sometimes it pays to be alternative,” Charles Cyr said. “I have no vote.”
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