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Friday, September 21 News

Darien High School cafeteria expansion project held up by power line

DARIEN — A week after breaking ground, the project to expand the Darien High School cafeteria has hit a snag.

Board of Education member Jill McCammon delivered the news Monday at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen, informing the group that a large electrical line adjacent to the cafeteria could cause a problem.

“We knew all along that there was an electrical line that runs parallel to the cafeteria alongside the track. When we excavated it, we found that it comes up closer to the cafeteria than we had expected,” McCammon said.

According to McCammon, the Board of Education and the Cafeteria Building Committee now have three options as they proceed on the $1.68 million project that was approved in 2017.

They could continue with the project on schedule, but reduce the size by around 30 percent.

“That’s not a small number,” McCammon said, though she said the goal to bring cafeteria seating up from 338 seats to 420 could still be reached by increasing density in the expansion.

Still, McCammon said, the first option does not fix the problem of the power line’s location.

“Any time we’re talking about that power line, we’re talking about potential impact to future expansion projects all along the high school, including this one,” McCammon said.

The drawback to uprooting the line, McCammon said, is that moving the power line just where it sits near the cafeteria would likely cost $100,000, while moving the entire line could be double that.

Selectwoman Pamela Sparkman noted, despite a projected increase in school enrollment at the high school over the next two years, estimates drop after that, and further expansions might not be necessary. McCammon countered that future developments coming to town that could increase enrollment should also be kept in mind.

The second option, according to McCammon, is to build the cafeteria with a cantilever over the duct bank, to elevate part of the expansion over the power line.

McCammon said engineers have said the design was possible, but she is unsure whether Eversource would approve and that the line would have to be moved relatively quickly after the expansion was complete.

The third option would be to move the power line first, and then build the cafeteria as planned, though McCammon said she wasn’t sure it was feasible, because power would need to be cut to the school.

In any scenario, the expected finish date of the project, which was slated for Aug. 20, could possibly be delayed.

McCammon requested input from the Board of Selectmen by the April 11 meeting of the Cafeteria Building Committee, and said the issue came down to a few questions.

“Is this the kind of thing you would want escalated? Or do you just want to leave it as it is?” McCammon asked. “And I think the second question is, are you comfortable with the 30 percent reduction in capacity?”

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justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1; 203-842-2586

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