The Finance and Government Operations Committee discussed the purchase of a historic school building at their meeting on Wednesday evening. They also discussed the Swine Flu situation and its possible impact on city finances. Through unanimous and routine votes, they supported expenditures by a variety of city departments. Final approval of the expenditures rests with the full Common Council.
The Johnson School (see correction below)
St. Sebastian School will close at the end of this school year, a decision of the Norwich Diocese, previously reported in the Middetown Press. St. Sebastian School was founded in 1944, and occupies a building which was built in 1872 as The Johnson School, part of the Middletown public school system. It is on Durant Terrace, just behind Illiano's Pizza on S. Main Street. When St. Sebastian bought the Johnson School building, the sales agreement stipulated that if the building ceased being used for education, the city would have the right of first refusal to purchase the building from St. Sebastian. Councilman Gerald Daley speculated that the city had sold the school to St. Sebastian for $1.
With the closing of the school, St. Sebastian has offered the building to the city for a price of $1.3 million. Planning Director Bill Warner said that all departments had contemplated possible uses for the school building, but none foresaw a benefit to the city. Councilmen Daley and Ron Klattenberg pressed Warner, but it seemed apparent that the building is too small, not handicap accessible, and in an inconvenient location for use as a senior center, city school, administration building, or any of the other possible city uses. The F&G Committee voted unanimously against purchasing the school.
Note added: I have posted a correction of several mistakes in the above information. The most important to note is that the school building was the home of Eckersley Hall, built in 1870. The Johnson School (1872) was on Green Street. Both schools are on the list of Middletown Historic Properties.
George Dunn, Director of Emergency Management, was at the F&G meeting to gain approval for a grant and for waiving a bid requirement. After those were approved, he took the occasion to discuss Middletown's response to the Swine Flu pandemic. He said that he has assembled a crisis management team which includes representatives from the Health Department, emergency responders, the hospital, and the school system. Dunn said that all parties are working well together, and that Middletown was working closely with 7 regional towns.
Dunn said that the situation was evolving quickly and unpredictably, "By tomorrow it might be completely over or ten times worse." Daley cautioned that there is a "need to create a balance between too much panic and burying our heads in the sand." Dunn said that it was approaching the time for emergency responders to wear protective equipment (masks), and that the F&G committee would possibly be receiving a request to purchase additional equipment if the situation becomes worse.
Riverview Parking Garage and other requests
The committee approved the request by Public Works for $35,000 from the General Fund to be used for structural repairs and improvements to the Riverview Parking Garage, to be paid back upon receipt of state funding through the Local Capital Improvement Program (LOCIP). The committee also approved $40,000 to be disbursed to Public Works to cover a shortfall in the budgeted funding for sand and salt.