NEW MILFORD — The school board has approved some funding connected to the fuel tank replacement, though the bulk of the project’s cost is still being debated.

The $5,000 approved at a Feb. 26 meeting is to pay Pembroke Pumping for a needed service when the old sewer line was discovered while replacing the fuel tank at the Lillis Building, where the school’s central office is housed.

The Lillis Building project and its management were recently criticized by the Town Council when school officials asked for money because the project had gone over budget. School officials are now working with town and reviewing the contractor’s itemized list of costs that caused the project to come in higher than expected to determine what it will pay.

In late January, school officials asked Town Council for an additional $80,000 or so to the $105,000 the Town Council already allocated for the Lillis Building project. The $5,000 is covered by the initial $105,000 allocation, though it was unexpected and beyond the actual $92,000 project approved.

School officials told council members last month that the project ran over because they didn’t realize the tanks were not already at the proper depth, requiring more digging so the new tank could be put back in the ground under the regulations.

The crew encountered a lot of ledge while digging, which made the project more expensive, and the tank had to be installed in a new location because an old sewer line was found.

“None of us anticipated the ledge and sewer problems here,” Superintendent Stephen Tracy said.

Some Town Council members have said they were being overcharged by the contractor, ETT Environmental, and refused to pay the extra money until they could speak with company officials directly. ETT Environmental is replacing other tanks for the town and also replaced the tank at Hill and Plain Elementary School for the school district.

The tanks need to be replaced because they are 30 years old, a deadline set by the manufacturers and enforced by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The Hill and Plain project was $70,000 above the already approved $92,000 because workers discovered the school’s electrical transformer and switchbox were on top of the tank, causing them to just seal and abandon it in place and order a new above ground tank.

Tracy said there are more preliminary tests that are more thorough but also more expensive and might not have even found all of the problems, such as the clay pipe that the ground penetrating radar wouldn’t have picked up. He said a fuel tank replacement is usually standard because the old tank is dug out and the new one is put in the same spot, adding these extra tests cost tens of thousands of dollars.