More than six months after school building committees picked architects to design two new schools, city councilors have endorsed the picks.
Though the contracts won’t be signed until the city completes the purchase of property on Matthews Street eyed for one of the 900-student schools, officials expect the deal to go through within a couple of weeks.
Councilors agreed to hire the Hartford firm of Tai Soo Kim, Partners and Architects for $2.14 million to draw up the detailed plans necessary to move ahead with the school slated for construction on the former Crowley dealership site on Pine Street.
The Massachusetts-based Drummey Rosane Anderson, Inc. was tapped for the West Bristol school. It will earn $1.8 million for its work.
Superintendent Philip Streifer said the school building panels each thought it best to hire different firms for the two projects, on the assumption that it would be best to have a firm focused on a single school.
City Councilor Mike Rimcoski, who serves on the Forestville School Building Committee, was the only councilor to vote against either architect.
Rimcoski renewed his plea for colleagues to award the Forestville contract to DRA as well because it would cost taxpayers $350,000 less.
With the economy struggling and a new fiscal year about to begin, he said, “I don’t think we’re starting out right by blowing through $350,000” for no good reason.
Ken Cockayne, the only other Republican councilor, said he would normally agree with Rimcoski but in this case, he said, councilors should take the advice of the committee members who actually slogged through the many applications from different firms.
Councilor Kevin McCauley said the Crowley site for the Forestville school offers a unique challenge because Greene-Hills School and Peck Park are next door and must continue operating during the construction period. That takes expertise, he said, that Tai Soo Kim offers.
Rimcoski said he plans to use the council’s votes against hiring DRA for both projects to his advantage during the municipal election campaign this year.
DRA was not the low bidder on the West Bristol site either, officials said, so they’re not sure why Rimcoski favored it there.
With a push from state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat, the state Department of Education has told city officials that the June 2010 deadline for beginning construction on the new schools can be waived.
Nicastro said the city merely has to ask for the waiver and it will get it.
Superintendent Philip Streifer said the extra time will help.
“With all these pieces falling together, we’ll be in very good shape,” Streifer said.
About the school project
Cost: $132 million
Two new K-8 schools sought
Closing: Memorial Boulevard Middle School and Greens-Hills, O’Connell and Bingham elementary schools.
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