The town is taking steps to demolish Bridge Street School. In 2015, when the town approved at referendum to bond renovations to Bridge Street School and convert it to a community center, there were expectations that this would be accomplished.
By October of 2017, the Permanent Building Commission (PBC) had put in hundreds of hours of planning (over two years) on the Bridge Street School project and were ready to hire an architect and Construction-Manager-At-Risk, when the First Selectman called a halt to the process. In minutes from a 10/19/17 PBC meeting, “Chairman Sangiovanni noted that the Bridge Street School project is currently suspended. It is not terminated or discontinued but due to the uncertainty of the State budget, it is suspended.”
The project was put on hold indefinitely and other town projects were moved forward. After the elections in 2019, which changed the face of the Board of Selectman (BoS), there was a vote by the BoS to move forward to rescind the original bond referendum and demolish the building.
A subsequent referendum was held in early 2020 to vote on rescinding the 2015 referendum bonding vote. The results of this vote supported rescinding the original bonding, negating the original vote by a narrow margin. The next step was to move forward with demolition of the building.
At the July 15, 2020 BoS meeting, Facilities Manager Chris Matejek spoke about plans to acquire quotes for demolition of the building. According to the minutes “the town currently has an amended Notice of Unsafe Structure from Building Inspector Ted Flanders that orders the town to remediate or demolish in accordance to State Building Code.” Ted Flanders reported that he had been in the building six weeks before and based on finding dead animals and falling ceilings, that the sooner the demolition could be done the better. The building has stood vacant for 15 years with minimal maintenance.
The town has hired ATC, a company that does environmental abatement consulting, to determine the scope of work to be done. When that information is completed, RFPs will go out for demolition and abatement contractors, and the town will acquire proposals for the cost of the abatement and demolition, most likely not until the end of August or the beginning of September.
This year’s town budget included $700,000 for the possibility that demolition and abatement were to happen during this budget year. The money, according to Ryan Anderson, Board of Finance (BoF) chairman, was added to the budget as a place holder in case the building became so unsafe there needed to be immediate action. Because of the large amount to be spent by the town, the expenditure would normally have to be approved at a Town Meeting, and that was the expectation when the money was added to the budget.
The governor’s Executive Order allowing towns to forego town meetings regarding budget votes due to COVID concerns, allowed our BoF and BoS to set our town budget without going to town meeting for approval.
With COVID-19 continuing to upset the workings of just about everything, the possibility of a Town Meeting on the demolition of Bridge Street School may or may not be in the cards. It may likely be the end of Bridge Street School.