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Board of Education can't help Turf Committee. Bidding will need to go out again.

POSTED May 13, 2014
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: The chances weren’t good going in, but the Torrington High School Turf Committee thought it was worth a shot.

Asking anybody in local school finances to come up with even the smallest amount of funding during very difficult times is certainly an uphill battle that Turf Committee Chairman Ed Arum was very well aware of.

The committee had come in front of a special meeting of the Torrington Board of Education asking for a $117,000 dollar “bridge loan” that would allow them to accept the lowest bidder in the 2.72 million dollar turf and track project at Torrington High School.

H.I. Stone, the lowest bidder out of the three qualified loans the committee got back, still came in nearly $30,000 over budget, making it impossible for the Torrington City Council to sign off on it, thus allowing the project to get underway.

Original planning had shovels in the ground as of May 7, but when the numbers didn’t add up the Turf Committee had a few choices to consider.

They could send the entire project back out to bid, which would negate completion by this falls sports season or find a means to close the gap.

At a meeting Monday night, the committee floated the idea to ask the BOA for a stop-gap loan that would never actually be in their possession.

H. I. Stone was going to be asked to provide cuts that would come in at no less than $200,000, thus making the “loan” from the BOA unnecessary.

BOA Chairman Ken Traub had called the special meeting to allow Arum the opportunity to state his case to the board as a last ditch effort to keep the project somewhat near the original schedule.

“The Turf Committee has overcome hurdles I never thought they could in an effort to get this done,” Traub said. “It is a very motivated and inspired group.”

The relationship between Traub and certain members of the Turf Committee have been adversarial at times to say the least.

It was that reason that saw Traub announce he would be stepping down from the committee effective immediately.

Traub will be replaced by Andrew Nargi who spoke in favor of trying to find some way to get the monies in place in the short term but several factors prevented even his motion from being seconded.

Back when the bids came in too high, Arum had spoken to the City of Torrington Corporate Council, Raymond Rigat, about going back to each of the qualified bidders, asking them to make some cuts that would bring the project in line.

Rigat ruled that would not be in the City’s best interest and stated the project should go back out to bid.

Rich Mills, from the firm Shipman and Goodman, gave Traub an opinion on the proposed $117,000 temporary loan that stated he did not feel it was legal for the BOA to lend money.

“We allocate money,” Traub said. “We can’t loan it.”

With the school district nearly $190,000 in the hole at this point in the fiscal year, BOA members, especially Superintendent Cheryl Kloczko, worried about how it may look if there was a freeze on all departments currently but $117,000 was ‘floated’ to the Turf Committee.

After considering all the information, the board thanked Arum for his time and effort on the project and trying to find a way to make it work.

Arum thanked Traub for his input and expertise that he brought to the committee.

The bidding will be put back out at some point in the near future but the current years plan is out. The grant is good for five years, so Torrington will not lose the money by missing this season’s construction.

So, this September, the Raider soccer and football teams will continue to play on the current field.

The track team will be road warriors for this year and next.

They currently don’t run on the failing track and will now lose next spring as well.

The new bidding process will allow for some flexibility in the bid, the first set was a bulk-bid, meaning it was all or nothing when it came to the final number.

Arum and the Turf Committee will press on, looking for their next answer, which with their determination, is probably already lined up.

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