Despite the uncertainty hanging in the air with Governor Dannel Malloy’s $7.2 million budget cuts to Monroe, First Selectman Steve Vavrek formally presented his plan for Chalk Hill to the Town Council and Board of Finance on Feb. 13.
Vavrek, a supporter of keeping Chalk Hill open and revitalizing the building to be used as a community center said the building could become “a dynamic focal point for the community.”
“[Chalk Hill is] seeking to fill a void presently existing in the town without having to site and construct a new building, Chalk Hill and its existing facility amenities offer an excellent opportunity for municipal offices as well as dedicated and flexible programing space utilization,” he said in his presentation.
Vavrek’s plan for Chalk Hill involves moving the Parks and Recreation Department, the Social Services Department, IT Department, Public Works storage, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) offices town offices and after school programs to the building.
As part of the plan the departments and offices would relocate to Chalk Hill in phases. Vavrek said first phase would focus on Parks and Recreation, Social Services and CERT into the building.
The plan also breaks down how different departments will and could use the Chalk Hill space in the future. The plan notes that Parks and Rec anticipates between a $219,000 and $230,000 in revenue if they moved their entire operation to Chalk Hill. Vavrek’s plan also notes how vacated Town Hall space will be redistributed and used if the offices are permitted to move to Chalk Hill, noting that the Food Pantry’s existing building can be sold.
The plan also breaks down when different repairs and improvements could be made to Chalk Hill over a five year period, noting that the septic and oil tanks would need to be repaired in the first year.
The plan also indicates the different approvals and permits the town will need to move forward with using the building as a community center from the Town Council, Board of Finance, Planning and Zoning Commission, Health Department, Inland Wetlands Commission, Building Department, Fire Department and the Zoning Commission.
Vavrek’s plan breaks down the costs of the town’s three different options: demolition, mothballing and re-purposing the building as community center.
To keep the building and utilize it as a community center, the building will require at least $270,629 per year to fund the operating expenses. It will states that the various repairs to the building will cost $3.95-million.
If the town chooses to mothball the building, it will cost them $371,847 and an additional $86,641 a year in operational costs.
To demolish the building the plan states that it will cost $2.7-million to take care of knocking down and removing materials from the site. Board of Finance chairman Mike Manjos raised concerns about the demolition cost as a 2010 study by Silver and Petrucelli stated that it would cost $1.8-million. Chris Nowacki, director of Public Works said the price discrepancy is caused by 5% escalation per year in cost and that the $1.8-million figure did not include incidental costs for permitting and disposal for the septic tank.
Board of Finance member Patrick O’Hara raised questions about whether Chalk Hill’s kitchen has been inspected by the Health Department. Frank Cooper, the director of Parks and Recreation said that the Health Department has inspected the kitchen and gave his department to go ahead to use it for their “minor culinary” programs. However, Planning Administrator William Agresta said the kitchen will need appliance updates in the long term.
O’Hara also raised concerns about air conditioning the building and how much it would cost to air condition the building. Agresta said that the plan includes numbers for replacing the HVAC system but not the cost of air conditioning the entire building.
O’Hara said he recognized that the most important things are listed in the report, but that items related to kitchen updates and air conditioning are missing.
“From my perspective seeing the whole picture, whether it’s five years or seven years would be important. I think this $3.9-million is your starting number,” he said.
Town Council member Ken Kellogg asked about costs related to furnishing the space. Cooper said that there is a “multitude of furniture and stuff” that is currently in storage that can be used. Agresta also said that when the offices make the move, that they would bring their furniture as well.
O’Hara also asked if tenant fit out was included in the document, which it is not.
Town Council vice chairman Enid Lipeles said that she doesn’t think the town really needs to use Chalk Hill.
“As a fiscally conservative person I’m concerned,” she said. “I know it’s a good community resource but there are other places people can go.”