City councilors gave their unanimous blessing Monday to buy the former Crowley dealership on Pine Street for $2.25 million in order to build a new school there.
The council did not take action on a proposal to buy land on Matthews Street for a second school, but officials said they expect to complete negotiations for the parcels there in the next two weeks.
Superintendent Philip Streifer said he expects to finish the deal “very, very quickly” in order to keep to a tight timetable for completing the land acquisition.
The city aims to build two new kindergarten to eighth grade schools – each with 900 students – sometime after June 2010. If money is scarce, the $132 million project may not be finished until 2015, officials have said.
Councilors said they had no problem approving the purchase of the Crowley site, which includes several adjoining parcels, in order to build one of the new schools next door to the existing Greene-Hills School, one of three elementary schools targeted for closure under the plan.
The city may also buy a small market at the corner of Pine and Daley streets as part of the project.
There doesn’t appear to be any opposition among councilors to buying two large lots and several smaller ones on Matthews Street, near Clark Avenue, to provide space for a second school.
Streifer said that the negotiations have to be completed soon.
“The clock is ticking with getting the deals done,” Streifer said.
Under a Board of Education plan, four older schools will be closed when the new ones are finished – Memorial Boulevard Middle School and three primary schools: Greene-Hills, Bingham and O’Connell.
Architects will have about a year to complete blueprints, which will be followed by a state review. The city must have a construction contract in hand by June 13, 2010 in order to preserve a 73.9 percent reimbursement rate for the project as a whole.
One hitch that developed Monday is that councilors expressed concern about former city attorney Edward Krawiecki, Jr’s representation of several of the property owners on Matthews Street.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro asked if that could pose a conflict of interest that might rebound to hurt the city in some way.
“There does appear to be an issue,” said Dale Clift, the city attorney.
Richard Lacey, a city lawyer, said that Krawiecki has a conflict if the legal work he is doing now as a private attorney is ‘”substantially related” to work he did as a municipal lawyer.
Lacey said the council could declare that it is not concerned or it could ask for an opinion from the Connecticut Bar Association or it could simply do nothing.
“The prudent thing to do” would be to ask for the opinion, said city Councilor Craig Minor.
But Streifer suggested that doing so might create a delay. The superintendent also said that there isn’t much to negotiate, since the city is set to pay the highest appraisal value for the relevant properties anyway. It can’t pay more than that unless ordered by a court later.
Clift said his office will prepare a memorandum by week’s end detailing the issue involved with Krawiecki’s representation of the property owners.
Nicastro said that Krawiecki is “a good attorney,” but he wants to make sure taxpayers are protected.
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