Front Page
  Derby KOs school plan
 Marianne Lippard, Register Correspondent June 13, 2001

DERBY Residents on Tuesday turned down a proposal to build a new $31.4 million high school on a portion of Field View Farm by 445 votes, 1,878 to 1,433.

Town Clerk Barbara Moore said about 50 percent of the registered voters came out for the referendum. Mayor Marc Garofalo said the vote was "disappointing."

"On Sept. 1, there is going to be a space issue at the Derby schools," Garofalo said.  "We have to abide by the will of the people, but I don't know what the next step is."

The project would have been paid for in part by an estimated $17.5 million state grant, with a cost of roughly $13.9 million to the city.

One year ago, Derby residents voted 2-1 against a $40.6 million plan to build a new high school and renovate the current facility on Nutmeg Avenue.

Aldermanic President Michael Kelleher, D-3, chairman of the High School Building Committee, questioned what the administration's next move would be.

With the student population growing, Kelleher said the space problem isn't going to go away.

"Do we line our parking lots with temporary classrooms? Do we use shoehorns to get (the students) in?  I would ask the opposition for solutions," Kelleher said.

According to those who followed the voting, cues as to how the votes would swing were hard to come by.  As of 3:30 p.m., 1,400 residents had cast votes at Bradley School.

Outside, John Kowarik, a member of the ethics board, and Kathy Riordan, a former chairwoman of the Republican Town Committee, stood under a cream-colored umbrella.  Both Kowarik and Riordan hoped to dissuade voters from supporting the new school.

Judging from the feedback he was getting, Kowarik said the vote could be 50/50.  He said he was surprised at some of the harsh words uttered by some of the supporters, but he was pleased with the high turnout.

"We have to live together after this vote, no matter how close it is," Kowarik said. After learning that the project was defeated, Kowarik said that now the city can work toward a solution that the citizens of Derby will support.

Adding on to the current building on Nutmeg Avenue is one alternative that might be pursued, Kowarik added.

"I think we should work together to come up with a plan that taxpayers can absorb.  The other side did work very hard, but the taxpayers felt this was too much of a burden and they've spoken for a second time," he said.

Riordan said that environmental assessments recently released should have raised questions.  The firm that conducted the tests said the farm was found to be suitable for a school, but recommended further tests as the project moves forward.

"Why would you buy property that you need to continue testing and put our children on it," Riordan said.

Daniel Waleski, an Elm Street resident who describes himself as a "long-term concerned citizen," said he didn't appreciate the tactics used by project supporters.

"They've worked very hard behind the scenes.  I don't think they've conducted politics in a very gentlemanly way," Waleski said.

©New Haven Register 2001