Bridge Street School doors opened to public

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
Suffield - posted Wed., May. 1, 2013
Economic Director Patrick McMahon discusses the condition of the building with resident Steven Szczygziel. Town Planner Bill Hawkins listens. Photos by Jennifer Coe.
Economic Director Patrick McMahon discusses the condition of the building with resident Steven Szczygziel. Town Planner Bill Hawkins listens. Photos by Jennifer Coe.

Suffield is hopefully one step closer to answering the question of what to do with Bridge Street School. On April 23, the alma mater for many was opened to the public. The public was only given access to one floor, and not allowed to enter any rooms, for the sake of their safety.

Suffield is attempting to flesh out an answer on what to do with the property, taking into consideration the plethora of divergent suggestions which have been made from all sectors of the town.

“I think it’s the most important thing that they can see the building in its current condition and evaluate it for themselves; to help the community make a decision on what they’d like to do,” said Planimetrics representative Glenn Chalder, who has been hired by the town to assist residents in narrowing down their choices.

Entering the cold building, everyone was immediately taken with the beautiful architecture, high ceilings and the potential it could represent for the town, but they are also hit by the smell of mold wafting up from the basement and repelled by stained ceilings and peeling paint.  Most of all, people were struck by the feeling that the building could have closed just yesterday, as they noted current cartoons painted on the walls and the PTA board which was decorated and ready for information.

“The mold is mostly in the basement,” said Director of Economic Development Patrick McMahon.  “There has been poor drainage to the outside at times.  The drains would get clogged.” An air test, however, has revealed no major concerns.

McMahon and Town Planner Bill Hawkins had set up several poster-boards for residents to view which posed all the different possibilities that the town could consider with regard to what to do with the building going forward.   Options include: tearing the building down, renovating it completely, just heating it or preventing further water damage, selling the building and keeping the field or just selling the entire property to a developer.

Steven Szczygiel, who took the tour, attended Bridge Street School in his youth.  “It would be nice if it could be saved,” he said.

Another resident, Connie (Matyskiela) Haskins, only attended the school for a little while but remembers, of all things, the school lunches.  “I looked forward to them,” she laughed, noting that the apple delight and the macaroni cheese were among her favorites.

Haskins said she thinks the school should be converted into affordable apartments.  Many possible uses have been put forth by people in the community, from turning the building into apartments to making it into a community center or a K-9 training center.

Town leaders are hoping that by opening the building up to the public and giving them a chance to really evaluate its condition, they will be able to come up with a viable plan of action when they meet with the town on May 14. “We’re hoping people will come out with all their opinions and we can just hash it out as a community,” said McMahon.  “Maybe narrow some of the choices,” he said. “[The building] is going to start to show its age.”

A town-wide workshop will be held on May 14 at Suffield High School at 7 p.m.  At this workshop residents will be led through exercises to help them narrow down the best use the property for the town of Suffield.  For more information visit www.suffieldspeaks.org.


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