John and Leslie Cooper were delighted Thursday night when the Board of Estimate and Taxation gave the go-ahead for the Music Instructional Space and Auditorium project at Greenwich High School.
The couple said they first signed a petition for a new auditorium when their son was a sophomore. “He’s going to be 27 now,” said Leslie. “It’s been a really, really, really long haul. It’s the right thing at the right time and I’m very excited.”
Cooper said she may be biased because she is on the building committee, but John, who was a member of the school’s first graduating class, said that not even they could fit in the auditorium. “In the 1960s they were considering two high schools in town. When they finally fit the building, they never scaled it, and in those days there were only three classes,” he said.
First Selectman Peter Tesei surprised those present, including school officials, when he revealed a deal made with fellow board Republicans and fire department officials to delay construction on a new central fire station until 2014 so the board would be more inclined to approve the project. The board unanimously approved $17 million of the project’s $29 million cost.
Superintendent Sidney Freund said he was pleasantly surprised by the compromise. “We’re excited to put the first shovel in the ground,” he said after the meeting. “It’s not what we thought was going to happen tonight.”
Board of Estimate and Taxation member Joseph Pellegrino said he admired Tesei’s leadership, but reminded residents that fiscal sacrifices would have to be made on other projects. The auditorium project, funding of which will be completed in 2013, and construction of the $24.1 million central fire station in 2014, are being made priorities.
“The collective demands of our community are greater than the want of our citizens to pay taxes, and I say that candidly,” said Pellegrino.
The board’s approval means the project will go before the Representative Town Meeting, which will not meet until May. If the full town budget is not adopted, the town will revert to the 2010-2011 budget for the next fiscal year.
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