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Fence to be installed around Weston Middle School wetlands

SCH-middle-school-frontA fence to be installed around a new wetlands area behind Weston Middle School is meant to be more of a visual deterrent than a security barrier. But town officials still believe it’s important and the Board of Selectmen Monday night approved $10,154 to cover the cost.

The selectmen approved a bid from Connecticut Fencement Inc. of Stratford for a four-foot tall black chain link fence that will sit about one foot off the ground (making it a total of five feet high) to allow wildlife access to and from the area. It will be about 609 feet long with a pipe rail along the top, and a tension wire rather than a rail along the bottom portion. It is expected grasses and plants will grow in along the bottom that will help support it and keep it from buckling.

Other options considered included a six-foot high fence, piping on both the top and bottom, and a shorter length fence.

Dan Clarke, facilities manager for the Weston public schools, recommended the longer fence, saying the 45 extra feet would wrap around the edge of the wetlands area.

At the approved length, the fence will cover about one-third of the wetlands; after that, the growth gets very thick, making access very difficult and less likely, Mr. Clarke said.

The fence should “keep curiosity seekers, especially children, out of the wetlands area,” Mr. Clarke said.

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein lamented the need to spend more money on the approximately $330,000 wetland remediation project that was mandated by the Army Corps of Engineers after construction of the new intermediate school and additions were made at Weston High School in 2004. The project included removing invasive vegetation and grading the area behind the middle school to improve natural drainage, and then planting about 4,000 plants — several hundred trees and shrubs and thousands of smaller grasses and plants.

“The cost overruns have been gi-normous, to say the least,” Ms. Weinstein said at the July 8 selectmen’s meeting. “I feel like this project is never-ending.”

However, a fence was not in the original plans for the project, Ms. Weinstein said. It appears no one thought about the fact that there could be standing water as high as three to five feet in the area after the wetland area was reconstructed, and that that water could potentially be accessed by school children, she said. The middle school playground is near the wetlands area.

Ms. Weinstein added that the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to allow it but “is not thrilled” about putting a fence along the edge of the wetlands, but town and school officials agreed for safety purposes it is necessary to at least have it as a visual deterrent.

“We are not creating a secure facility,” said Town Administrator Tom Landry. “This is about something else. It’s about creating a delineated area.”

The selectmen decided the four-foot fence was sufficient and it was not worth spending an additional $3,500 for a six-foot fence that would actually reach at least seven feet high. Ms. Weinstein pointed out that even fences around swimming pools are only required to be four feet tall.

The appropriation request must now go to the Board of Finance for final approval since it is more than $5,000.

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