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Weathersfield Voters Asked to OK Bond for School Renovations

— Voters will decide next week whether to spend as much as $700,000 to tear down parts of the former Perkinsville Elementary building and renovate what remains.

After months of study and a meeting to gather public input, the Selectboard has proposed renovating the oldest portion of the school building, which was built in 1879 and is on the state register of historic places, and demolishing two additions from 1954 and 1969.

Perkinsville Elementary closed in 2008.

“We feel this is what the town wished us to do,” Selectboard Chairman Dan Boyer said.

Even if a $700,000 bond issue to renovate the 133-year-old part of the building is defeated Tuesday, money would still need to be spent to maintain the building, the Selectboard said at a hearing this week.

“No matter what you do, it will cost some money,” Selectboard member Mike Todd told about 20 residents at public hearing on the bond Thursday night. “If you just leave it or take it (all) down, that will cost a lot as well.” The bond proposal also includes the addition of athletic fields and parking for the abutting Hoisington Field and possibly a small outbuilding with a bathroom and storage area.

If voters say yes, the town would be authorized to borrow up to $700,000 for the project.

“We are confident that is enough money to do this right,” said Robert Buchan of BMA Architects in Rutland, which drafted a report in July outlining options and estimated costs for the school’s re-use.

The tax rate impact for the first year would be slightly less than 1 cent per $100 of valuation, according to figures provided by the town at the public hearing. For example, a property with annual taxes of $4,000 would see an increase of $36 in the first year of the 20-year repayment period. The tax impact would gradually decrease as the bond is paid off.

“People said it would be a good idea to have a building that could be used for town functions,” Boyer said. “That is why we went with the option of tearing down everything except the 1879 building.” Among the possible uses for the historic structure are a food shelf, a teen center, a library or a hall for private gatherings such as weddings.

Todd said the proposal gives the town a “usable building and usable field” with lower maintenance costs.

Another more expensive option presented at the September meeting that the Selectboard rejected was to stabilize the 1879 portion, mothball the 1954 addition, which is 2,700 square feet, and renovate 5,000 square feet of the 1969 addition for lease to a private school. Another 5,000 square feet in the 1969 section, called the “core area,” would be “minimally” renovated for a shared use between the tenant and community.

It would include a multi-purpose room, kitchens, public restrooms and a storage area. That option was estimated to cost $1.35 million.

At Thursday’s hearing, two residents questioned whether the 1879 building, which is 1,808 square feet, would be the best section of the building to maintain. The 1969 addition is larger and includes a gymnasium.

Selectboard members again said residents who turned out to a public hearing in September made it clear that cost should be an important consideration for the project.

“Sixty people (in September) told us they did not want to spend the money ($1.35 million) we were talking about to retain that building,” Todd said about the addition with the gym. “That’s too much money.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.