Suffield residents continue to fight for Bridge Street School
By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
Suffield - posted Fri., Jun. 21, 2013
Suffield residents and town selectmen gathered once again to discuss the Bridge Street School on June 19. Shortly after the meeting began, selectman asked the public to step forward with concerns.
One of the first to speak at the meeting was a member from the Friends of the Library. The member, who used the facility to sort books for the organization, explained that the building is deteriorating. Plaster from the ceiling is coming down and the furnace is broken so there is no heat, she said.
Parks and Recreation Commission Vice-Chair Cindy Nicholson also spoke at the meeting, reiterating that Parks and Rec. would like to use the building to offer more services to the community. She also mentioned the historic value and need to preserve the building for the community.
“Bridge Street School is a treasure,” Nicholson said. “Having a building for community use at this location would be ideal.”
Suffield resident Frank Forti voiced his opposition to the property being made into an apartment building because, he said, it would change the aesthetics and the property value for his residence in Brandywine Village. He believed a large part of the hesitance to move forward with renovations on the building came from the presentation of the project.
Forti pointed out that the town put an emphasis on the amount of money renovations would cost when they proposed it to the public. He compared the decision to a recent decision he made about buying his wife a new car, saying he made the decision based on what it would cost per month and for how long he would have to make the payments, rather than its overall price.
Forti explained when you break down the estimated $3.2 million in renovations cost at today's prices it would only cost residents $34 per year over a 20-year period if the town did not receive help from any outside sources. If the town did receive help from state or federal funds, fundraisers, or donations that amount would decrease he said. Forti told selectman when you present it as approximately $3.2 million it “looks scary to the average person.”
After the public portion of the meeting, Glenn Chalder, a representative from Planimetrics, shared the results from the Suffield Speaks workshops he was hired to coordinate. The meetings were organized to gather public input on what Suffield residents want to see done with the Bridge Street School.
“In all of my years of experience, in terms of public meetings, that strength of sentiment is something I had not seen before,” said Chalder. He reported that the three most preferred options by residents were almost unanimous – renovate, stabilize or relinquish.
“The longer we wait the worse it gets,” said Selectman Joanne Sullivan. Sullivan urged First Selectman Edward McAnaney to put the project on the next referendum or at least to get the furnace fixed. McAnaney agreed he would have someone go into the building to access the furnace, roof, gutters and anything else needing immediate attention.
“We need to do something to stabilize it,” said Selectman Eileen Moncrief.