Thursday night, the School Building Committee unanimously approved a $227,450 proposal by JCJ Architecture to do extra work to possibly gain millions more dollars in state funding.
Wednesday night, the state legislature approved a bill put forth by Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, and Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, which qualifies the renovation - part of the high school project – roughly $15 million - as renovate-as-new status. This could allow the town to receive 31 percent reimbursement on that section of the project, meaning the town could receive millions of more dollars from the state.
However, to qualify for renovate-as-new status, the project’s architect, JCJ Architecture, has to produce a large amount of documentation on the project, according to Greg Smolley of JCJ. The unexpected hours of compiling that documentation will cost $227,450, according to Smolley.
“That is a lot of money,” School Building Committee member Jody Nazarchyk said after Smolley’s presentation.
“Yeah, but the return on investment is well worth the investment,” School Buildings and Grounds Director Jay Miner said.
When the town approved the $67 million project to renovate the high school, the state agreed to reimburse the new construction associated with the project at 65 percent. However, the town paid for the renovation of the existing high school with its own money, roughly a $15 million total.
Now, the town is trying to retroactively apply for state reimbursement on that $15 million total. Special legislation passed by the state on Wednesday will allow Waterford to do that, according to Superintendent Jerome Belair.
However, to get 31 percent in state reimbursement the town has to apply for renovate-as-new status for the renovations, a funding status defined by the state government. To do that, the town has to submit plans and other documentation, Smolley said.
Then, on June 4, the town will meet with the state to see which parts of the renovation will qualify as renovate-as-new status. Smolley didn’t guarantee anything, but said he was very confident he could get most of the work as renovate-as-new status.
If the work does qualify, the town could receive more than $4 million in state funding, Smolley said.
“The most important part is we get approval,” Belair said. “We can’t go through all of this and not get approval.”