'We Have to Narrow it Down and Move Forward or Not Move Forward'

Town leaders are reviewing four options for Chalk Hill's future.

What to do with the Chalk Hill building? Hibernate it? Operate it as a community center to be either be run by the town or Kimball Group in a public/private partnership? Or get a wrecking ball and just demolish it into a big pile of rubble.

"Things seem to be moving along," said John Kimball, president of Kimball Group and a Monroe resident. "Four options are on the table. We have to narrow it down and move forward or not move forward. Some things are time sensitive. People need to know if there will be a building to move into."

Kimball has been working with the town on a public/private partnership to operate the former school as a community center, but as details are being hammered out, town officials have yet to decide exactly what they want to do with the building.

First Selectman Steve Vavrek handed out a packet called "Chalk Hill Status Update and Plan Review" to Town Council members at their Monday night meeting and Kimball was on hand to answer questions.

The Council ultimately decided to have an informal meeting on Jan. 9 where they can ask Kimball, Vavrek, Public Works Dir. Douglas Arndt and Town Finance Dir. Carl Tomchik questions, with representatives of the Board of Finance and Planning & Zoning Commission in attendance.

Councilwoman Debra Dutches suggested preparing questions for the first selectman ahead of time so he and his department heads would be better prepared and Councilman Tony Unger asked fellow members to funnel questions through Chairwoman Enid Lipeles. Kimball also told council members to call or email him if they ever have any questions.

If the town decides to turn Chalk Hill into a community center, Kimball asked that a full-time director be hired whether the operation is run by Kimball Group or the town.

"The building can't be run on autopilot," he said. "It needs communication for its programs and the schools."

During a public comment portion of the meeting, several people spoke in favor of keeping Chalk Hill open as a community center, including Dawn Ryan of Monroe Early Learning Center (a day care already in the building, Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service Chairman Dennis Condon (EMS uses Chalk Hill as a training facility), David Halliwell of the New England Repertory Company (which may lease space there) and Emergency Management Dir. David York, who wants the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to have a place to meet and room for storage. York also said the building could be used as an emergency shelter.

Vavrek's packet listed four options for what to do with Chalk Hill:

  1. Mothball/hibernate
  2. Demolition
  3. Remain open as a proposed community center via a public-private partnership.
  4. Town Control

Option Three

Keeping Chalk Hill open and pursuing a public/private partnership keeps the current annual town contribution of $150,000 and continuation of current maintenance and insurance.

Kimball group assumes financial risk of operating the building and maintenance.

According to numbers provided by the Department of Public Works, it would cost $65,000 less than the 2011-12 actuals for the town to keep the building in its current state.

It would cost approximately $146,000 less than year one of the hibernation/mothballing option and approximately $72,000 less than year two of the hibernation/mothballing option.

There would be a profit sharing model. No profit would be expected for three years, but after it is generated an initial $250,000 capital building expense reserve would be funded. After it is funded, all profits would be split 50/50 between the town and Kimball Group, according to the profit sharing terms, which are still being negotiated.

When the $150,000 town rental fee is paid for by the 50/50 profit share, then the profit sharing would move into a 75/25 split favoring Kimball Group.

Revenue generation models include rental, fee-based for use on an hourly basis and participant based — in which a percentage of a vendor's participant fee goes into the profit sharing model, while the vendor benefits from administrative support such as enrollment, confirmation and marketing.

Potential Tenants include:

  • Parks & Recreation, a Monroe Emergency Medical Service training center and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
  • New England Repertory Company (discussions)
  • Monroe Early Learning Center (confirmed)
  • Studio On the Move (confirmed)
  • Board of Education alternative education program (discussions)
  • YMCA (discussions)

Additional Revenue Sources:

  • Conversion of existing Lecture Hall into second run movie theatre
  • Youth Gym from a private donation of fitness equipment
  • Proposed concession stand (met with the Trumbull-Monroe Health Department to review requirements)
  • Rental of theatre to outside groups
  • Expansion of sports programs, clinics, tournaments
  • Before and after school/snow day programs
  • Special events (community chorus, holiday programs, haunted community center, March Madness, etc.)
  • Teen Nights

Option One

The costs of keeping Chalk Hill open in its current minimal usage state is estimated at $374,338; it would cost about $246,881 to mothball the building for the first year and $193,881 in year two and onward — this is not factoring in changes in utility costs.

Cost considerations for Option One include:

  • Potential of revenue lost
  • Jeopardized Parks & Recreation programs that are running during the day
  • Park & Rec. programs run in schools on weekends entail higher custodial costs which limit growth of programs expansion
  • Incurred costs for relocation of town departments
  • Popular programs run at Chalk Hill help offset non-revenue generating programs

Option Two

The cost to demolish the building would be approximately $1.9 million.

Option Four

If the town considered operating the building on its own and offering revenue generating programs as well as assuming a landlord role for potential tenants, the option would become cost prohibitive within the first year.

Current operations would cost more than the $150,000 proposed fee.

Staffing increases would include: weekend security/greeter, additional maintenance, a building supervisor and a program coordinator — which is approximately $100,000 in staffing.

Any maintenance or facilities work would be done at the cost of the town and taxpayers.

Donna Gail December 12, 2012 at 09:32 PM
I wouldn't say the school was neglected by the BOE. They put a new roof on it a few years back and installed or upgraded the elevator. There was other work done....but what is the BOE supposed to do when their budget is decimated? It's easier to cut improvements out of the budget than to cut teachers & textbooks. When my kids were in Chalk Hill not that long ago, the building was clean & very well-maintained considering its age.
jim laguardia December 13, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Why would we spend millions of dollars to tear down the building and spend even more to build fields that would only cost more to maintain??
jim laguardia December 13, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Am I missing something here?? The town could either pay $150k a year to mothball it or $150k to keep it as a valuable part of the community?? What do we have to lose by going through with the deal?
Peter December 15, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Offer it to Newtown as a temporary replacement of Sandy Hook. Our friend's kids should not go back to the building this soon, and it is available...
Joel Leneker December 15, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Great idea to offer the school to Sandy Hook. Might be a logistic busing issue. But sure would help get the kids away from the site of that horrific event.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »