Sen. Linares, Rep. Ziobron propose remedy for East Hampton high school hitch (Middletown Press)

February 6, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Middletown Press

By Jeff Mill, The Middletown Press
Posted: 02/06/15

EAST HAMPTON >> Even as the School Building Committee wrestles with efforts to downsize the high school renovation project to comply with new state standards, two legislators are working on another option which could resolve the issue.

State Sen. Art Linares and State Rep. Melissa Hoy Ziobron have drafted proposed legislation that could, if it is approved late in the current General Assembly session, end the impasse that threatens as much as $7 million in state reimbursements.

Both legislators came before the building committee last week to pledge their support as the committee struggles to find a way to reduce the square footage of the school to comply with new Department of Administrative Services standards.

The state agency is demanding the committee reduce the size of the school from its present 118,000-square-feet to 98,0000 sq. ft. – something the DAS commissioner acknowledged last week is simply not feasible.

Linares, who said he has confronted a similar problem in a shoreline school district, said, “I’m just here to be part of the solution to this problem.”

“As soon as l heard about your problem,” Ziobron said, she contacted committee officials to offer her services.

Ziobron said she then contacted the Department of Administrative Services to get a full explanation of the process, which she subsequently posted on her website,

For now, the two legislators said, the town’s best option may be what is called “not withstanding language” that can be added to an end-of-session omnibus bill.

“We had our staffs look at a legislative solution,” Linares told the Town Council last week.

“This is a little difficult, but we can get there,” Linares said.

“Many times for many different reasons, legislators will provide language , referred to as ‘not withstanding language,’ to be added to the school construction bill to rectify situations (where) their community school project has faced a hurdle,” Ziobron explained in a subsequent posting on her website.

“It could be for missing a deadline, extending construction or, in East Hampton’s case – legislating to allow for reimbursement status or to increase the allowable square footage to be reimbursed,” Ziobron continued.

She acknowledged there is no guarantee the language she and Linares proposed will be included in the final version of the bill, which is generally “not voted on until May – at the earliest,” Ziobron said.

She told the council she and her staff had worked with DAS staffers to try and include appropriate language to assist East Hampton.

If the language is “intact and ultimately voted on…the renovate as new status for the project, as it is currently planned, will remain intact and the state reimbursement funding will not be jeopardized,” Ziobron said.

“You can expect we will work very hard for East Hampton on this issue,” Linares said.

“This is not an uncommon thing to have happen, Town Manager Michael Maniscalco said.

“I know of a half-dozen projects that had this or similar issues that went for a legislative solution,” Maniscalco said.

“The really encouraging thing is that the staff at DAS wants to work with the community” to find a solution to the issue, Maniscalco said.