GREENWICH — The future of the New Lebanon School New Lebanon School building project, and Greenwich’s racial balance plan, hang in limbo after a surprise recommendation from the Malloy administration that the construction — a contender for 80 percent state reimbursement — not be given state aid.
“This is much bigger than just the funding of the school,” said New Lebanon Building Committee Chairman Steven Walko.
Greenwich officials — who have been operating on the assumption that reimbursement was assured — said they were shocked when Benjamin Barnes, Benjamin Barnes state Office of Policy and Management secretary, told legislators they should reject Greenwich’s application for a construction grant.
“It was a bolt out of the blue,” said Board of Education Chairman Chairman Peter Scherr.
Chairman Michael Mason said don’t expect a new school, as currently designed, if state money falls through.
“If the state cuts the money is the town going to build a $37 million school on taxpayer money? No,” he said.
The $37 million project (for comparison, the new Glenville and Hamilton Avenue schools cost $23 and $27 million, respectively) has been the topic of conversation on this site for years, and so far as I know not a single reader, nor I, has expressed anything but absolute certainty that Hartford Democrats would never pay for a school to be built in the state's richest town: not with a billion-dollar deficit, not with the legislators' traditional stance that Greenwich exists to serve as the piggy bank to fund the rest of Connecticut, not as a recipient of aid. To the contrary, the discussion has focused on whether the state's demand for racial balancing is legal or enforceable, and the best way to challenge Hartford's mandate. The entire charade conducted by the town over what to build and where to build at has been scoffed at here, because the process was ignoring the reality that anything that was going to be built would be built entirely on Greenwich's dime.
Mason asserts that this school will never be built without state money? Of course it won't. How much time and money has been spent over the past years, though, as architects were hired, plans presented at public hearings and modified, repeatedly, to meet objections of parents and neighbors who thought they were discussing something other than a mere chimera? As our new president would say, "sad".
I'm a little disappointed that BOE Chairman Peter Sherr claims that Hartford's reneging on its promise to pay comes as "a bolt out of the blue". Really, Peter, after we here at FWIW supported your insurgengent campaign against the Republican establishment and helped, even in some small way, to get you a seat on the Board? What, you won, and then abandoned us?
Okay, I'm kidding on that last part, but had you stayed as a reader, you'd have had plenty of warning from some very smart people (the readers, not the editor) that this puppy was d.o.a.
UPDATE: To be fair, another article in today's Greenwich Time quotes Peter Sherr questioning the whole idea of a magnet school at New Lebanon - as a local opponent (not Sherr) asks, "what Riverside parent is going to send their child to Byram? I don't think they will." No they won't, so the entire plan to build an oversized building to accommodate students from other parts of Greenwich is just plain ol' dumb. If we're considering spending all that money just as a sop to the state's diversity mob, to keep it off our backs for a few more years, we'd be better off, and save money while we're at it, paying legal fees, and telling Hartford to pound sand.