Prospect, Region 16 close on school sale

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, left, laughs with Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin as he holds up a box of keys to Community School July 8 during a ceremony to close on the town's purchase of the school from Region 16. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, left, laughs with Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin as he holds up a box of keys to Community School July 8 during a ceremony to close on the town’s purchase of the school from Region 16. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

PROSPECT — With a few signatures and the passing of a check, the town of Prospect officially took ownership of the former Community School last Friday morning.

“This was a long time coming,” said Mayor Robert Chatfield at a closing ceremony in front of the building at 12 Center St.

The town bought the 32,300-square-foot building that sits on 3.26 acres of land for $873,000 from the Region 16 school district, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect.

Community School and Algonquin School were closed at the end of the 2014-15 school year. All elementary students in Prospect now attend the new Prospect Elementary School, which was the largest piece of a three-part school building project.

Voters in Prospect and Beacon Falls approved the purchase and sale of Community School earlier this year.

The $873,000 will be returned to the towns based on the student population ratio, which is roughly 60.8 percent Prospect students and 39.2 percent Beacon Falls students. According to the sales agreement, Prospect will get $530,469.72 back while Beacon Falls will get $342,530.28.

Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said the money will be returned to the towns in the form of a credit on their September education payments.

Yamin said the sale of the school marks the end of a multi-year plan to provide the best facilities possible for the region.

“I think we’re really in a great place right now,” he said.

Board of Education Vice Chair Robert Hiscox added, “I think it’s a win-win for everybody. The Board of Ed can spend their money on educational materials and not maintaining a vacant building.”

Board of Education Chairwoman Sheryl Feducia echoed those sentiments.

“I’m so happy that Prospect is going to take this building and use it for the community, as it should be,” Feducia said.

The town has been buying land along Center Street, which officials consider to be the center of town, when possible. Now, there are only two properties along Center Street the town doesn’t own: the Prospect Congregational Church and a residential property listed at 27 New Haven Road. The backyard of the residential property is located along Center Street.

The town plans to turn the former school into a community center that will be used for a variety of uses, including as a recreation center, space for civic organizations to meet or hold fundraisers, and an emergency shelter in the future.

“There will be something going on in here for everybody, for all ages,” Town Council Chairman Tom Galvin said.

The Parks and Recreation Department office, which is currently on the lower level of Town Hall, will be moved to the school.

Recreation Director Chris Moffo said the building will allow the town to offer more diverse programs.

“We’re very excited about it,” Moffo said. “We’ll be able to broaden our programs that we have right now and give them a facility that they haven’t had.”

Chatfield estimated that the building will be fully open to the public around Labor Day.

First things first, the building needs repairs, including a new roof. Chatfield added the town will also inspect the electrical and plumbing systems and clean the building.

The town, which has received bids for the roof work, set aside $400,000 from a school budget surplus to do the needed repairs.

As the town prepares to transform the school into a community center, Chatfield emphasized that the building will not be rented out for any commercial purposes. Town organizations will not be charged to use the building, he added.

“Just like any of the other buildings here, it’s their building; the townspeople’s building,” Chatfield said.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.