Can the city keep the billion?

Mayor Matt Driscoll is working very hard to encourage packed houses at the four city high school auditoriums for the Joint Schools Construction Board's public meetings to discuss the seven schools that will be renovated during the first phase of the school reconstruction project and the School District's Comprehensive Plan.

The first phase, is budgeted at almost $225 million, with amounts ranging from $51.7 million for Fowler High to $22 million for Shea Middle and includes appropriations for the Institute of Technology {Central Tech}, Blodgett and HW Smith Pre K-8, Clary Middle and Dr. Weeks Elementary. The meetings are scheduled:

Thursday, Sept. 14 at

Fowler High School

Monday, Sept. 18 at

Henninger High School

Tuesday, Sept. 19 at

Nottingham High School

Thursday, Sept. 21 at

Corcoran High School

All meetings will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

"The average age of our school buildings is 68 years old," Driscoll notes. "We have to be planning for the next 30 years. We want to be very careful and plan for all the details, especially the Minority & Women Business Enterprise percentages. We have to make sure we're hiring people from the city." Driscoll says the nine-member JSCB panel is going line by line over the enabling legislation Gov. George Pataki finally signed, two years after Driscoll submitted legislation for renovation of the city's 35 schools at an estimated cost of $600 million.

"We had support from both sides of the aisle [in Albany]," Driscoll says. "When [Pataki] vetoed it we were caught off guard." Insiders speculate that the mayor should not have been surprised by the veto with his campaign for reelection imminent. If the funding were approved before Democrat Driscoll faced the voters, he could have campaigned on his ability to bring home the bricks and mortar. By delaying approval until after the election, Republican Pataki could pocket an owesey from a Republican mayor, if victorious, and cash it in for his quest of the 2008 presidential nomination. Releasing it to a GOP administration would have given local Republicans control of the dispersement of $600 million in construction contracts.

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