My recent Coronavirus Update stated: “Suffield is at a crossroads. We must double-down on our efforts and work in partnership with our neighbors to flatten the curve of this new, arguably more dire, wave of the pandemic.” Sadly, I suspect our plea is even more critical now. Please remember the daily sacrifices of healthcare workers. Let’s help – wear a mask!
• Suffield Alight (December 12), a socially distanced self-guided tour of beautiful Historic Main Street, adorned in finery and alight in the brilliance of the season. More surprises under wraps ~ keep peeking at www.SuffieldCT.gov.
• Halloween Spooktacular, lifted spirits and scared up almost $6,000 benefitting SCA’s COVID-19 Fund.
• Town Hall, progressing nicely and on budget enabling extras contributing to the “renovate as new” finished project.
• Town-Schoolwide Facilities Master Plan RFQ/P, ten responses received and December finalist interviews.
Demolition of Bridge Street School (BSS)
Residents voted to cancel the BSS renovation project at the February 25, 2020 referendum. In compliance with the Town’s insurer (CIRMA) and the Building Official’s “Notice of Unsafe Structure and Order,” we issued an RFP for abatement/demolition (September 23, 2020). While there will never be a good time to demolish a building holding so many dear memories, current conditions and pandemic pricing yielded favorable results now. Versus the budgeted $700,000, we expect $350,000 in savings. These dollars may be reinvested into the property with a playground/playing field and park setting paying homage to the school. Stay tuned for an upcoming Town Hall style meeting where the public weighs in.
I urge residents to refer to the Capital Projects page of the Town website for greater understanding of the BSS history and issues, including:
• Suffield Observer column, November 2019
• Board of Selectmen (BOS) Minutes, October 16, 2019
• First Selectman BSS Update/PowerPoint Presentation
• First Selectman Email to BOS, September 13, 2017
• Town Meeting Minutes with Resolutions, September 2, 2015
Funding for BSS demolition was discussed at 11 public budget meetings (8 in-person prior to COVID-19).
Moving forward, I hope the BSS lessons inform future decision-making involving preservation of Suffield’s buildings. The October 16, 2019 BOS Minutes noted, BSS was decommissioned in 2004 without a plan. By 2008, former First Selectman Scott Lingenfelter cited substantial and concerning deterioration. In 2013, ensuing Health Department concerns were relayed to former First Selectman McAnaney. By the time a plan was in place, it proved to be too costly, and too late.
Today, we are at a similar juncture with Babb’s Recreation Complex. Unlike BSS, however, Babb’s is on the National Register of Historic Places. Now is our opportunity to reverse the tide and for Suffield to be better stewards of its property. We have this opportunity due to the efforts of volunteers of Citizens Restoring Congamond who devotedly tackled projects over the last two decades stabilizing the building. Had they not, Babb’s would be facing the same fate as BSS.
Over five years, the Town has made strides at Babb’s. We reopened the beach, installed new stairs, utilized a 20-year old $75,000 grant for a water line, paved the ADA accessible roadway, etc. The reinvigorated facility proved well-received and enjoyed, a notable respite this past summer. Next steps involve deciding the fate of the rink itself.
We must plan and act proactively in regard to our facilities. With the 20-year high school bond completed, the Town has capacity and opportunity for investment. The Facilities Master Plan will assess current use and space needs for all buildings, including our schools, and establish priorities for replacement/improvement.
Happy Holidays, hoping each of you finds some joy. Looking forward to a new year!