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If Voters Reject Honeywell, the School Board will Need $220K

Town Councilman Tony Unger says anticipated savings from the energy efficiency projects allowed the school board to reduce its utilities line item by $220,000.

The costs for the first year of bonding for $3.8 million worth of energy efficiency upgrades to town school buildings is already in the budget proposal and the Board of Education was able to reduce it's line item for utilities by $220,000 due to the anticipated savings, according to Town Councilman Tony Unger. But voters' approval of the bonding is needed to make the Honeywell projects a reality.

During a public information session at town hall Monday night, a resident asked what will happen if voters reject the funding request at Tuesday's referendum.

"If this goes down, then we have to find $220,000 somewhere in somebody's budget," Unger said. "Last I checked, that was three teachers. I don't think we can afford something like that."

Polls are open today from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. to vote on Honeywell and the town's $80.3 million budget proposal in two separate ballot questions.

Close to 20 residents attended the information session, which was hosted by the Town Council.

Board of Finance Vice Chairman Michael Manjos, who helped to negotiate the contract between Honeywell and the town, answered questions about the $3.8 million bonding issue Monday night.

Also participating in the meeting were First Selectman Steve Vavrek, Monroe Public Schools Finance Dir. Gabriella DiBlasi, the school district's technology director Jack Zamary, and Honeywell representatives Doreen Hamilton and Terry Guiry.

Manjos said the town recently received good news when it learned that CL&P's reimbursement set aside for Monroe rose from $610,000 to 655,417. The utility could not finalize its rebate number until the town settled on the scope of the project, he explained.

The rest of the project is supposed to be paid for through the savings on utility costs, according to Honeywell.

Honeywell also promised to make a $160,000 donation to be used for locks for classroom doors of the town's public schools as part of a plan to upgrade security.

Lee Hossler had asked what would happen if the Honeywell funding is defeated at the polls. Vavrek said that even if that happens, the building upgrades are something that eventually must be done by the town one way or another.

Longterm Planning

During the question and answer period, Ronald Bunovsky said, "Ten years is a long time for a pay back. That's what bothers me. A lot can happen in 10 years. What could put the town in non-compliance if anything?"

Manjos said the Honeywell projects originally totalled over $7 million to be bonded for over a 15 year period before the town pared it down to $3.8 million over 10 years for Masuk High, Jockey Hollow Middle and Fawn Hollow and Stepney elementary schools.

Manjos said he had been uncomfortable borrowing for over 15 years and wanted it to be reduced to 10, adding it would have an accelerated payment schedule with 67% of the bonding being paid off within the first five years.

Terry Guiry of Honeywell said the projects would include things like pipe insulation, door and weather stripping, better insulation with windows and ceilings, switching from oil heat to gas and replacing a 40-year-old boiler at Stepney.

Guiry pointed out that upgrades will last for 20 to 30 years after the bonding is fully paid for, allowing the town to continue to benefit.

Steve Schapiro spoke in support of the projects, saying the town has to stop making decisions based on today and tomorrow and instead plan for its longterm future.

Town Councilwoman Debra Dutches also spoke in favor of the project.

Joel Leneker April 23, 2013 at 01:52 PM
I am glad to hear the town council will be actively involved with the monitoring of the Honeywell Contract. Always good to have more than one person watching the shop!
Steve Kirsch April 23, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Gerald, keep in mind that many towns have done this and the both the Council Chair and BOF Vice-Chair spoke to different towns and had the same feedback - this works, Honeywell was great to work with, and savings were greater than projected. As citizens, we really have to look at the facts presented to us, which says this is clearly a good deal for us.
Donna Gail April 23, 2013 at 01:52 PM
That's a valid point since there could be lots of different elected officials over these next 10 years - hopefully there will be continued, close monitoring by the Town finance people and BOE administration.
Steve Kirsch April 23, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Don't forget that Honeywell is going to be monitoring all of this as well and providing information back to the town.
Joel Leneker April 23, 2013 at 02:17 PM
@Steve: But only if someone in town is making sure Honeywell is providing all of the information to make future informed decisions. Is there anything in the contract that specifically identifies a committee or commission whose sole responsibility is to monitor this project? If not "Danger will Robinson".

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