The long-awaited school bus operations building is one step closer to being built, since the Board of Selectmen approved a request to enter into construction contracts at its July 17 meeting.

Director of Public Works Michael Pastore told the selectmen he aims for the project's completion in November, before the year ends.

"We'd like to take advantage of August, the quiet time," Pastore said of the intended start date.

Two companies are contracted to meet this goal: Construction Management Group, which is set to construct the building for $178,772, and Peter Lanni, Inc., the lowest bidder for $39,358 in foundation and utility work.

The project's total cost is estimated at $275,000 after additional work, such as building a ramp and setting up an electrical service, is completed.

This price was a relief to the project's proponents, like Pastore, who originally hired architecture and design firm Perkins Eastman to create a design. They found a low bidder of $400,000.

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"The Board of Education reviewed and approved the Perkins Eastman plan, and that was about two years ago," BOE member Penny Rashin reminded the board at its last meeting July 16.

However, she said, the project was deemed too expensive, so Pastore's office used the Perkins Eastman design to create a simpler, less expensive one.

"It's basically a pretty simple building," Rashin said. "It's got a few offices, a work room and a meeting area. And it's got a training center."

The major changes of the redesign involved creating a pitched roof, simplifying the heating and air conditioning system and adding fixtures, Rashin said.

"The exterior now is still mostly brick," she added. "The colors will be chosen to match the high school."

Rashin said landscaping wasn't included in the simplified design, "but once we have it all, we'll want to add some, I'm sure."

The project has several sources of funding, according to both Rashin and Pastore. These include a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant from the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management for $150,000, a grant from the town for $50,000 and the remaining $75,000 from DATTCO, the bus company that will use the facility.

DATTCO's current facility, two trailers combined by one roof and a center platform at the corner of the school's property, will eventually be removed, Rashin said. She noted this is an expensive proposition that is being investigated.

High School Principal Bryan Luizzi, who was at the BOE meeting, acknowledged the aggressive timeline of the project, adding, "My focus will be to eliminate all disruption from the education of the kids."

"Is there going to be an impact on where we park the busses?" BOE Vice Chairman Kathryn Smith asked.

Transportation Coordinator Roy Walder, also at the meeting, said, "I would hope that we would be able to continue (to have) all of the busses at the high school."

Walder said it would be difficult to put the busses anywhere else, such as Saxe Middle School, because it would be a squeeze for space.

Rashin recalled when this was an issue in 2000, eventually leading to the current home for the busses and operations building at the high school.

"As you all lived through that period, the town went round and round," she told the Board. "There was no place to put the busses."

First Selectman Rob Mallozzi acknowledged how far the town came on this issue.

"It was painful to go through it," Mallozzi said. "But it was worth it to see what we can achieve."

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