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SCHOOLS Officials reach consensus on site for new facility

By Peter H. Milliken

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The new building would enhance the Williard Avenue neighborhood, the mayor says.
WARREN -- City, housing authority and school officials have reached a consensus in support of a Willard Avenue site for construction of a new kindergarten through eighth-grade building in the city's southeast quadrant.
The new school would be one of four new K-through-8 buildings to be built in a $170 million new schools construction project, which also would include a new Harding High School.
The new schools would replace 13 buildings. The state is paying 81 percent of the cost and the remainder is being covered by a bond issue voters passed in November 2003.
Under the school administration's proposal, the new building would be built adjacent to the former Willard School, which has been vacant for more than 25 years and which would be demolished.
The site consists of about 14.5 acres, six of which are owned by the city schools. The city would donate almost eight additional acres.
John L. Wilson, the district's executive director of development and community outreach, said Willard is advantageous because it would only require buying a half-acre parcel in addition to the city and school district-owned land.
"My business is stabilization of neighborhoods," said Mayor Michael O'Brien, adding that a new school on the Willard site would do just that. The mayor said the new school would be the greatest opportunity for the neighborhood in 25 years. Utilities are in place for the project, he added.
"TMHA is delighted at the possibility of having the Warren City Schools as a neighbor once again," said Don Emerson, executive director of the Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority, whose Trumbull Homes housing project is adjacent to the Willard site. Emerson predicted the new school would lead to neighborhood revitalization.
Other idea fell through
Wilson said school officials also considered using a Laird Avenue site behind Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital, but rejected that idea because the proposed long and narrow L-shaped parcel was poorly proportioned and would require purchase of many additional properties and likely construction of a costly three-story building to fit on the site.
After hearing remarks from other board members, board President Linda H. Metzendorf said the board had reached a consensus in favor of the Willard site, but no formal action was necessary Tuesday.
Metzendorf said she had long ago thought about building a new school on the Willard site. "As school board members, we need to be good neighbors, and being good neighbors is not allowing schools to be boarded up for well over 20 years," she said.
Board member Robert L. Faulkner Sr. observed that the meeting was the first time in 14 years that he'd seen so many key city and housing officials at a school board session collaborating on a project.
"That's a positive sign. We hope this is not your last time here," he said.