Prospect voters OK buying Community School, district meeting up next
PROSPECT — The purchase of Community School took a step forward Monday night with the unanimous support of Prospect voters.
About 85 voters cast their vote at town meeting in favor of buying the former school from Region 16 for $873,000 and spending up to $400,000 to make repairs to the building. The town plans to borrow the money to buy the school. Officials will use the town’s share of the roughly $1.44 million 2014-15 school budget surplus to cover the repairs.
“I’m very, very pleased the town came out and supported this,” Mayor Robert Chatfield said.
Community School, located at 12 Center St., was closed at the end of the 2014-15 school year. Prospect officials have eyed the building and plan to use it for a variety purposes, including recreational activities and for civic organizations. The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, approved selling the school to the town for $873,000 in a controversial decision in October.
Prospect resident Terry Dominy said buying the school is a great idea for the town, pointing to the variety of uses that the building can house.
“It’s such a good buy they can’t really afford to pass it up,” Dominy said.
Resident Ann Stein said purchasing the school would be in keeping with the town’s plan to bring the center of town to Center Street.
“It’s been the town’s goal to acquire properties in the center of town and this is a major player. This gives us a lot of opportunity now and in the future to develop this whole area as our town center,” Stein said. “Once it’s gone it’s gone. We can’t get it back.”
Although Prospect residents have approved buying the school, the sale is not final yet. The school board has to hold a district meeting at which voters in Prospect and Beacon Falls will vote on selling the school. The school board is expected to schedule a district meeting at its meeting on Wednesday.
If the sale is approved at a district meeting, Chatfield said the closing would likely occur in the beginning of July.
The money from the sale of the school would be returned to the towns based on the student population ratio, which is roughly 60 percent Prospect and 40 percent Beacon Falls. According to the sales and purchase agreement for the property, Prospect would receive $530,470 from the sale and Beacon Falls would receive $342,530.
Region 16 is expected to return the money to the towns in late August or early September, Chatfield said.
The sale also faces a hurdle from Beacon Falls officials who have vowed to block the sale by filing an injunction in court. They contend that the sale price is not fair market value.
The towns and the school board each got an appraisal last year on the school, ranging from $1,225,000 to $1,510,000. The Town Council’s original offer for the school was $783,350, which took the average of three appraisals and subtracted $545,000 for repairs to the building. The school board discussed this offer in an executive session Oct. 14 before unanimously voting to set the price at $873,000, which took into consideration some of the repairs needed. The Town Council subsequently agreed to the price.
Town Council Chairman Thomas Galvin encouraged Prospect residents to attend the district meeting.
“There may be opposition because the other town may want to encourage to hold off the deal for a higher selling price. We don’t think that works to anyone’s advantage,” Galvin said. “Voters of both towns are eligible to show up at that meeting, so we just have to make sure we have strong participation like tonight. That will be a majority rules that evening.”