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School District 13 Gets a Break on Bathrooms

Durham Planning and Zoning Commission grants the district’s request for a 24-month extension to complete construction of restrooms at Coginchaug High School’s new athletic complex.


If you’re at Coginchaug High School’s new athletic complex and looking for a bathroom, better hold that thought if you don’t like Port-o-Lets. Last night, Durham’s Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) granted the Regional School District 13’s request for a 24-month extension to complete construction of permanent restrooms.   

Under the new timeline approved last night, the Board of Education will have until September 19 to present the PZC with a written cost estimate, a plan and timetable for appropriations, and a proposed construction schedule for final approval. After that, the district will provide the Commission with written progress reports and send representatives to PZC meetings in April, June, October, and February of 2013 with updates on the budget process.

Currently, there is no money in the budget for bathroom construction and there isn’t any allocated in the proposed budget for 2012-2013, which residents will be voting on next week in the May 8 referendum.

“It was pretty clear to us that we’ll have to go to a phased implementation,” said Board of Education finance subcommittee chair Kerrie Flanagan. “There’s no time to put this new phased plan into the budget.”

Flanagan said the board will include funding for new restrooms in the budget it prepares in December but board members are still holding out hope that they’ll be able to raise money from private donations before then to offset some of the costs. District 13 School Superintendent Susan Viccaro, however, assured the Planning and Zoning Commission that constructing permanent bathrooms is a top priority.

“The board recognizes the importance of putting in permanent bathrooms,” said attorney Tim Hollister, speaking on behalf of District 13’s Board of Education. “It is imperative that we fully fund this.”   

Indeed, from a legal standpoint, District 13 has little choice in the matter. In 2009, Durham resident Karen Cheyney sued the school district and the Planning and Zoning Commission in an effort to stop the athletic complex from being built. The resulting settlement which allowed the project to go forward requires construction of permanent bathroom facilities as part of the athletic field complex.

At last night’s meeting, the Board of Education offered an apology for failing to comply with the terms of the judgment. The settlement stipulated that all construction be completed no later than 18 months after the settlement date. However, under the new timeline, the bathrooms won’t be completed until April 30, 2014.

“Why couldn’t it be completed before April, 2014?” Planning and Zoning Commission member Joe Pasquale asked.

Flanagan said that, based on the number of unforeseen delays that have held up the project thus far, board members wanted to set a deadline they were sure they could meet, although she added they are optimistic that construction may be completed before then, ideally over the summer of 2013.

Cheyney and her attorney John Corona, both of who attended the meeting, said they weren’t thrilled about the plan but wouldn’t oppose it.

“It’s really hard to say we endorse it,” Corona said. “I’m dubious it will work.”

Bill Currlin, chairman of the Building Committee that was formed to oversee the athletic complex development, was notably absent from the meeting. However, the Board of Education told Planning and Zoning commissioners that its own Building and Grounds Committee would now be
overseeing the development and construction of the phased building plans and all future building projects.   

“We will take this over and do it ourselves,” said Board of Education Chairman Tom Hennick.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Richard Eriksen said he was pleased to hear that.

“I’m satisfied there’s some commitment,” Eriksen said. “All the parties are here. Let’s have a plan.”

Just my opinion May 03, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Too bad the district doesn't work this hard to comply with special education laws. Many children are supposed to have 504 plans in place but because parents aren't aware of it the school doesn't tell them. I.E.P.s should be in place for others and again if a parent doesn't know to ask they child doesn't get what they need.
Big K May 03, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Why don't you want to use a name instead of "Just my opinion" ?
Donia Viola May 03, 2012 at 05:21 PM
It's obvious there's been a different set of rules in our towns for the school district. The time for change is sorely needed to effectively manage our taxes which pays for the shenanigans District 13 pulls. Not having any funds set aside specifically for the bathroom facilities in any of the budget years subsequent to the referendum is inexcusable, depicts poor judgment, and is fiscally irresponsible. Voting NO on the current school proposal next Tuesday could possibly steer the BOE in the right direction to accommodate at least some monies to address the longstanding, forgotten portion of the project. Their actions have been absent of the focus necessary to prioritize the issues which are abundantly clear to so many members of the communities they profess to serve.
Stu May 03, 2012 at 06:06 PM
This is typical of the BOE telling the PZC what they want to hear and then PZC turns their head. It is simple, cease and desist use of the field for games until the bathrooms are complete. You can be sure private donations would have it paid for in just a few months. In addition, if my memory serves me right at the time of the presentation to the PZC, some or all the work for the bathrooms was going to be done at no cost by a private entity. Are you surprised? I’m not!
Big K May 03, 2012 at 10:03 PM
GREAT! comment
Bob Johnson May 04, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Take a look at what was proposed to the taxpayers of Durham and Middlefield when the referendum to do the upgrade of the athletic facility and the roof's and wells were voted on. Then take a look at what we actually got. Why wasn't there a penalty clause for completion of the athletic facility included in the bid? The senior football class had to wait to play on the field for NO apparant reason other than pure incompetance on the building committee's part. Try and propose a multi- million dollar project to the Durham P/Z, agree to conditions on completion issues as basic as restrooms, and then not only don't produce but plead ignorance! See if a Certificate of Occupancy would be given. The Board of Ed. still has TEMPORARY portable classrooms scattered throughout both towns at the schools for 10 plus years now. The bottom line is: what kind of an example is the BoE setting to the high school kids as far as due dlligence goes. We say we are going to do this, and we really have no intention of doing it at all! I think the makeup of this last building committee says it all. And good question, where was Bill Currlin when crunch time came?
Bob Bascom May 04, 2012 at 02:14 PM
It is now time to follow the money, What was the 5 million dollars spent on when the project proposed by the BOE to the taxpayers was not built. How much did this field really cost ? How do you build a slab for a building, stub up all the utility connections and not have a set of plans submitted to P & Z ? I would like to see someone else be allowed to do that Mr, Chairman Dick Eriksen !!
Jeremy Renninghoff May 04, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Bob, Let me say that although I was not on the Board at the time this project was under design and construction, I had my reservations on numerous aspects. I am not happy either that there are no permanent toilet facilities at the track. First, the building committee was never charged with building the fieldhouse, just the slab and the utilities. Technically the building committee couldn't even work on the actual building even if it wanted. This is one of the reasons why the Board is taking control of the project from here on out. Second, the start of construction was delayed because of the appeal from the abutter. For what it's worth, I'm not complaining about this issue; whether one agrees with Mrs. Cheyney or not, preservation of property rights is a cornerstone of our republic. Jeremy T. Renninghoff Board of Education Regional School District #13
bob johnson May 04, 2012 at 05:44 PM
The Building Committe was CHARGED with COMPLETING the facility, which included the terms of the P/Z approval, i.e. restrooms!Technically, the Building Committee coud not work on placing a concession stand either, yet when the funds were donated to buy the Care Free Concession stand, there was the Chairman of the Building committee standing there smiling for the camera and placing it! And finally, whether the start of the project was delayed by an appeal or not, they still had the ability to put in a completion clause.Any major project like this has one. Go back and read the minutes of the Building Committee as they stated time and time again they were on schedule with good weather for the project. Or better yet, attend the meetings as I did. Check your facts Jeremy before typing. The taxpayers got shortchanged on this latest building project of dist # 13.
Big K May 04, 2012 at 05:45 PM
The BOE just doesn't get it. There is a Bottom to the "MoneyPit" and we have reached it, sorryto say. Regional Dist. 17 is asking for .71% increase in this years budget and Regional Dist. 13 is asking for approx.3.45% ????
Jeremy Renninghoff May 04, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Bob, I'm not trying to defend the actions of the building committee. I'm just trying to present the facts as best as I know them, which brings up a whole other issue. The Board was kept in the dark on this and other happenings in the district. There's plenty of blame to go around. Personally, I think way too much was spent on the FieldTurf and the track itself. Certain people on the bldg. committee knew going into the project that they were going to spend a ton on the track/turf and not bother with the restrooms (aside from the bond resolution and the ed specs), not to mention no lights on the tennis court or the renovation of the Strong field. I have thick skin, but it's not fair to blame me for something that was before my time. All I know is that now it's my goal to see the fieldhouse to completion, at the least impact to taxpayers. Jeremy Renninghoff
Knickerbocker September 10, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Let's turn the hands of time back several years. Wasn’t the original problem replacing an existing 6-lane track and replacing the tennis court – That’s it! Then the salivating began. How did it turn into this mega-complex and shell game of funding with no transparency with the public citizens - ONCE AGAIN. The tip-off should been when certain individuals claimed that public donations would suffice in the building of this bathroom facility. Doesn’t anymore remember the “rotting in the weeds” donation thermometer before this over –zealous project got underway. It was in front of the school facing main street. It was a dismal failure and talk about a testimony the cheapskate parents of this town who want everything but don’t put in their fair share. My suggestion is to close down the entire sports facility to be in compliance to the judicial ruling and not re-open it again until some of the biggest supporters of this complex donate the proper amount of TIME, TALENT, and TREASURE to build the facility themselves on the existing slab. I am sure there is some license contractors in this pool of resources and the kids who participate in sport activities will have much more free time to help since there is no longer any sports to play. I bet within three weeks you will have something built.
HP In Demand September 10, 2012 at 05:35 PM
One word Knicky.........PROZAC
Knickerbocker September 10, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Hey “HP In Demand” if you can’t handle statements of truth then I suggest you live in a plastic bubble. I suggest a porta-potty.

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