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Will a Plan for Chalk Hill's Future be Ready by June 12?

First Selectman Steve Vavrek hopes to present a plan to CIFAP at its meeting in June.

Town officials cranked up the heat at Chalk Hill School 15 degrees higher than a building consultant's recommendation this past winter with disastrous results.

"We had it at 60 and the pipe burst," Public Works Dir. Douglas Arndt said of a pipe that froze in the cafeteria. "We had to have it at 65."

Indeed, even doing minimal maintenance to a building can have its pitfalls.

The school was turned over to the town a year ago but, due to a shortfall in revenue, First Selectman Steve Vavrek had recommended closing the building temporarily during the last budget cycle. Board of Finance and Town Council members want a solid revenue-generating plan to be in place before committing to keeping it open.

But Arndt pointed out that "hibernating" the building with minimal maintenance still costs money.

"We can only stretch a dollar so much before it breaks," he said. "If we don't maintain it in hibernation mode, it will have to be taken down."

The public works director shared his thoughts during the Capital Infrastructure Facility Asset Planning Subcommittee (CIFAP) meeting Tuesday night. The Planning & Zoning Commission's subcommittee is overseeing the planning process for the future of Chalk Hill.

"The building will thrive when it's being used to its full potential," Arndt said.

The first selectman will try to have a plan in time for the June 12 CIFAP meeting, to be held at 6:30 p.m. at Monroe Town Hall.

CIFAP Chairman Richard Zini, who is also chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission, said there is a need to accomplish three things:

  • Outline the current and past uses of the building
  • Establish a business plan with projected uses
  • Have a list of possible operating costs and needed upgrades

Then the P&Z would look at the proposed uses in the building, which has a special exception permit for a school in a residential zone. Zini said the commission will be flexible with the town property.

The commission will also schedule a public hearing for input from residents on how they want to see the building used.

Vavrek has been working with Arndt, Finance Dir. Carl Tomchik and Frank Bent on the building's needs and cost estimates. Bent had been serving as interim Parks & Recreation director. Now newly hired director, Frank Cooper, will take an active role in the process.

"Mr. Cooper has a good past of getting a building like this one up and running," Vavrek said. "But we have to have some issues and true costs once and for all. It has to be done the right way. We can't just put businesses in there. It has to be approved by Planning & Zoning. Whether it takes six months or a year, we're gonna do it right."

With unpredictable factors such as fuel costs, Arndt said he doesn't see himself getting more accurate numbers than he has already gotten.

It had been estimated to cost in excess of $150,000 just to mothball Chalk Hill.

Zini said he sees some sort of mixed use for Chalk Hill, though he stressed that does not include commercial nor retail uses.

Chalk Hill Present & Future

The Monroe Early Learning Center, a private daycare, currently leases space in Chalk Hill and shares the building with the Monroe Parks & Recreation Department offices. Parks & Recreation hosts revenue-generating programs in the facility.

The Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service holds training sessions at Chalk Hill and the organization hopes to move into the building one day. It now shares the Jockey Hollow Firehouse with town firefighters.

The town would run a deficit of over $200,000 to keep the building open and a number of residents have made proposals to bridge the gap. Options presented to the Board of Finance in March included an art school, yoga classes, a teen night, an expansion of the Monroe Early Learning Center, and the possibility of the Board of Education housing its alternative school there.

On Tuesday night Vavrek said, "There have been a number of potential suiters."

Jethro April 18, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Sounds like there is no plan.
Alex April 18, 2012 at 08:01 PM
"We had it at 60 and the pipe burst," Public Works Dir. Douglas Arndt said of a pipe that froze in the cafeteria. "We had to have it at 65." Did you check to see if the thermostat is operating properly? That just sounds absurd that an empty build must be left at 65º, I barely keep my own house that warm in the winter lol. I could see 40-45º and a pipe bursting, but 60º seems like there's another problem there and cranking up the heat is probably the easiest solution, but most practical? Is the insulation really that bad on the building?
Christine E. April 19, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Definitely sounds like an insulation problem, to me. If the pipe's close to the outside walls, and the insulation is bad, then I guess it's more likely to freeze. Or perhaps the heat wasn't working properly to begin with.
Joe April 19, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Let's just come out and say that Chalk Hill remains open for the exclusive purpose of providing a discounted daycare for town employees children.
john zoe April 20, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Isn't it amazing we don't have enough need to keep the building open, but we cant afford to put it into hibernation either? What and oddity? Pipes freezing at 60? Just how much fuel have we wasted over the years? Where is maintenance to begin with? Is insulation is beyond there capabilities? Pipes only freeze in the winter? You know you could always drain the system. This is why nothing ever improves here, our elected officials have lost touch with reality. Has anyone been fired over the seven year delay liens for the forest rd water line fiasco? No, they don't want to point fingers? Someone would be held accountable in the real world.and in most other towns. There simply is no common sense or honesty here. It's an insult to everyone intelligence. Some employees get daycare because after all, there is a shortage of people looking for work? And the residents get bad excuses and a larger tax bill ever year.
Jethro April 20, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Just keep electing the same people and we will continue to have the same problems.
live_here April 20, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Give it a rest Jethro. Stick to the subject. Give up the political banter for once, its getting old. No one wants to hear your useless dribble.
live_here April 20, 2012 at 03:42 PM
I agree with John above. The responsible and inept town employee(s) responsible should be fired for once! Proper management and accountability for a change by town departments to the taxpayers.
live_here April 20, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Joe has a pretty good point also. And at what cost to the rest of the Town/taxpayers??
Jethro April 20, 2012 at 06:37 PM
@live here - maybe if cheap people like yourself didn't vote down every single budget there would have been some money to keep it in good shape. What do the town employees have to do with it????? Are you looking for a scapegoat? The real problem is no vision by town leadership.
live_here April 20, 2012 at 07:14 PM
@ Jethro: As usual, just running your jaw for the sake of hearing your own dribble. No scapegoats necessary And as usual you show your ignorance of government. This has nothing to do with how anyone votes, it clearly has to do with the facts. Fact, pipes do not freeze at 60 degrees. Read the posts instead of being a rambling clown. And yes, the taxpayers pay town employees to manage these issues. If they screw it up or don't have the facts, they should be held responsible. After all, they are paid to do a job, and do it right. I believe that was the point Joe was making above. Hello. Speaking of, could you be a current or former town employee....hmmmm.
Jethro April 20, 2012 at 07:22 PM
@live here: really? What about the leadership and management of the town? Just saying Monroe elects the same people to manage the town every election then people like you are shocked at the result. Sounds to me like you are covering up a bigger issue here. Hmmm.
live_here April 20, 2012 at 07:35 PM
@Jethro..what issue?? You create drama from nothing discussed on this post subject. What about the leadership? What do you want them to do? Evidently the majority feels they are doing the job, otherwise they would not get elected. What's your excuse? Maybe you are covering up your own issue.
Christine E. April 20, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Jethro, The budget passed the first time out this year, so i'm not sure why you're still complaining about people voting the budget down.
live_here April 20, 2012 at 07:37 PM
By the way, how do you have a clue on whether anyone posting here is cheap or not? You just create drama, and are unable to interact or contribiute to a social discussion. Move on.
live_here April 20, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Like you would know.
live_here April 20, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Thank you Christine for bringing common sense back to the post.
Alex April 20, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Probably right, and I would stand to argue fixing that problem would be cheaper than heating the building to normal levels throughout the winter. A building that size must cost 1000s per month to heat to 65º.
Ride the lightning April 21, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Daycare: They do not receive a discounted rate.They were able to get in the building because of 11 years in the school system. They spent countless hours and money to get this business running up to par. The Town Attorney had them hire a lawyer, and draw a contract out of their own expense. It's my understanding the public is able to use this service. The issue is the difficulty in expanding a business given the uncertainty of Chalk Hill's future.

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