Five months of inaction on the replacement of ended Monday when the Stratford Town Council approved Tai Soo Kim Partners as the architect for the project.
Two dozen Honeyspot mothers and students in the audience, who regularly attending the meetings, broke into applause at the unanimous vote.
Councilman John Dempsey (R-5), chairman of the Building Needs Committee, credited Chief Administrative Officer Geen Thazhampallath for negotiating savings of about $80,000 in contract talks with the Hartford-based architectural firm. The total cost is expected to be $13 million, with more than half the bill possibly being covered by the state - unless the town fails to meet a deadline.
Presently, the Honeyspot House serves students in kindergartner through second grade. The school shares a campus with Stratford Academy on Fotch Street.
Despite the approval of an architect, Honeyspot School PTSA (Parent, Teacher, Student Association) Co-Presidents Olga Pena and Andrea Veilleux said they were concerned that delays might cause the town to miss a crucial upcoming deadline and lose almost a million dollars in state construction reimbursement funding.
They said the state reimbursement formula changes on June 30, 2012, the end of the current state budget year. At that time, the state’s reimbursement of construction costs and other approved expenses for the school will drop from 56 percent to 48 percent.
The town needs to have the new architectural design approved, the demolition contract signed and the first "shovel in the ground" by that date or it will receive the lower percentage of reimbursement and town taxpayers will have to make up the difference, Pena and Veilleux said.
"I think they’ll make it if there’s good project management," said Pena.
Tai Soo Kim Partners was the fourth most expensive out of five firms that responded to the town’s request for qualifications bidding earlier this year.
But the Building Needs Committee members were impressed by the firm’s qualifications, so they asked Mayor John Harkins to see if the price could be negotiated.
Town officials are not required to accept the low bidder during a request for qualifications bidding process.
But Pena and Veilleux noted that the Honeyspot School project has been in the works for about 10 years and they are wary of anything that slows its progress, especially with the reimbursement formula deadline approaching.
"We’re happy at this phase that the Town Council approved the architect so the process can continue," Veilleux said.