May 3, 2007
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Mayor Eddie A. Perez's effort to find a home for the Pathways to Technology magnet school has hit another stumbling block, as the state has rejected the city's latest plan to locate the school on a privately owned plot behind the old MassMutual campus.
In a spirited letter sent Tuesday to the city, state Commissioner of Public Works James T. Fleming told Perez that his department would not endorse the city's latest suggestion for the school on Fraser Place, a couple of blocks north of Asylum Avenue.
"It appears to me that the City is determined to locate this school on the Frasier [sic] Place site," Fleming wrote, explaining several of his concerns with that location. "DPW is not prepared to recommend the privately owned Frasier [sic] Place site."
In an interview Wednesday, Perez said he still wants to find a suitable location for the school.
"I'm waiting to meet with the governor," Perez said. "We're going to continue to work on it to try to find an adequate site...We want to cooperate with the state."
Chronicling the recent history of the search for a school site, Perez said that the city first suggested several state-owned sites for the school that went nowhere. Then the state suggested some city-owned sites that the city didn't agree with. Finally, after being contacted by the new owners of the old MassMutual site, the city suggested a vacant parcel on Fraser Place, he said.
The state rejected that site, Perez said, and came back with a Laurel Street site - which Perez says is unworkable.
Charles Crocini, director of capital projects, hadn't seen Fleming's letter Wednesday evening but said the MassMutual site had much to offer.
"It's very close to where we want to have the kids. Physically it made a lot of sense," Crocini said. "It fits very nicely there."
One problem, though, was that the property came with a $1.6 million price tag, Crocini said.
In February, the state ruled that Perez couldn't build the school on a Broad Street site that was home to the old Hartford Public High School before I-84 was built. Perez initially caused some tension by breaking ground on the site before he had the state's approval to build there and eventually had to cease work there.
In a subsequent letter to Rell, Perez asked for the state's help in locating a new site; Rell wrote back, telling Perez she has asked her top budget and public works officials to meet with him.
Fleming's pointed letter Tuesday calls Perez's decision to locate the building at Broad Street "ill-advised and hasty," traces the state's effort to work with the city, and ends by dismissing the MassMutual location.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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