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As chairman of the Middle School Building Committee, Gary Johns is excited to see progress on phase one of the project. (Photo courtesy of Gary Johns )
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As chairman of the North Haven Middle School Building Committee, Gary Johns is excited by the progress on the project. Phase 1, which is the construction of a new section of classrooms, is on schedule to be completed on time with students expected to start the 2016-’17 school year in the new building. The steelwork is complete and the interior work is underway.
“It’s always great to see progress,” says Gary. “When you see the plans become reality, all of the time and effort becomes worth it.”
First Selectman Michael Freda approached Gary about joining the Building Committee about a year and a half ago. Gary accepted and then volunteered to chair the 11-person committee.
“It’s a diverse committee with representatives from various parts of the community,” says Gary, who is also the town’s assessor. “We have seniors, parents, people interested in education—because it is so diverse, it is interesting to get to know them and what their priorities are with the project.”
The committee was charged with exploring four options for the middle school: renovating the current space, acquiring and renovating the Gateway building on Basset Road, building a new school on Bailey Road, or a hybrid plan that kept the common areas, but built new classrooms. After deliberations, the committee opted for option four.
“It was the most cost-effective and the most efficient way to get everything we needed,” says Gary. “We made a selection of which direction to go and directed that plan. We chose the architect and support people and brought it to the town for approval. It was approved overwhelmingly by referendum.”
Once funding was settled, Gil Bane Building Company was chosen as the construction company and the committee went to the Board of Education and the state for final approvals. Gary credits the success of the timeliness to the “great construction company” and the mild winter that has allowed for continued construction.
Gary knew that taking on the chairman position would be time-consuming, but he was still surprised at just how much is involved.
“There are issues that arise almost every day. Most are very minor, but there’s something to do every day,” says Gary. “It’s a challenge sometimes, but fortunately I’ve been able to make the time to do that on my personal time.”
While Phase 1 will be finished by September, Gary’s job, as well as the committee’s, will be far from done as they not only have to work through Phase 2, which involved demolishing the old classrooms and adding two multi-use fields and gutting the common areas and updating them. Phase 2 is expected to be completed by the start of the 2017-’18 school year. After the project is complete, the committee works with the state on reimbursements.
“The state audits the project at the completion and then makes determinations on dollar amounts,” says Gary. “The committee also continues on in case there is any litigation that pops up—hopefully we won’t have that or it will be very limited.”
This is not the first time Gary has served North Haven, where he was born and raised and still lives. Though he received an industrial design degree from the University of Bridgeport and began working in the field at Hamilton Beach right out of college, he was also appointed to the Board of Education when he was 22 years old and was elected to three terms.
Gary also served on the Board of Finance for a number of years, while working in several positions in the design field for years. He also received his MBA from University of New Haven. Gary was hired as the assessor for the Town of North Haven about 10 years ago.
As assessor, Gary and his department determine the value of all property in North Haven, including real estate, vehicles, and business property. His work experience and his civil service experience have benefited him in his role as assessor.
“It comes naturally to me to be involved with numbers and calculations; plus I’ve always had an interest in architecture,” says Gary. “Having been involved with design and manufacturing, it makes me better understand how businesses use their equipment. Being involved with the Board of Ed and the Board of Finance has helped because I knew people and knew the town.”
Gary also notes that his experience has benefited him in his role of chairman of the Building Committee. He is excited to see the results of the work he and the committee have put in for years to come.
“It’s a nice thing to know that something I’ve been so deeply involved with is helping create something tangible will last for such a long time,” says Gary. “It’s important to me that people know that I’m involved in town and trying to do the best that I can. I may not always be making decisions people like, but I’m making decisions that are best for the town, not only today but for the future.”
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