Board OKs school sale

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Voters will have the final say

The former Community School on Center Street in Prospect. –RA ARCHIVE
The former Community School on Center Street in Prospect. –RA ARCHIVE

REGION 16 — The Region 16 Board of Education last week approved the sale of Community School to the Town of Prospect for $873,000, but not without some dissension.

Beacon Falls board members Priscilla Cretella, who is vice chair, and David Rybinski walked out of the meeting when board Chair Robert Hiscox moved the motion to sell the school.

Although Cretella and Rybinski left the meeting, the board still had a quorum. The motion was approved with Prospect members Daisy Laone, Roxann Vaillancourt and Hiscox voting in favor of the sale, while Beacon Falls board members Sheryl Feducia and Christine Arnold abstained. Board member Nazih Noujaim, a Prospect resident, was absent.

“I’m disappointed that it happen,” Hiscox said about Cretella and Rybinski leaving the meeting. “I respect their decision. They’re under a lot of pressure; a lot of negative pressure in Beacon Falls.”

Cretella and Rybinski both wanted to table action on the school sale.

Cretella wanted it tabled due to information regarding appraisals for the property she said the board previously did not have. She also wanted the chance for additional negotiation on the sales price.

“I feel that if we can table this, then we can make a much better decision with additional negotiations on the price,” Cretella said prior to walking out of the meeting.

Rybinski concurred.

In a subsequent interview, Rybinski added he wanted to table action on the sale also because of an outcry from Beacon Falls officials about the sales price. He felt a decision could have been put off for two weeks without hindering the process of selling the school or incurring substantial costs to continue maintaining the building.

“Would the next meeting make a difference? I couldn’t say for sure,” he said.

The sale price of Community School has become a contentious issue among the board, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Project, and the two towns.

Community School, which is located on Center Street in Prospect, was closed at the end of the 2014-15 school year. Prospect officials want to buy the building and envision using it for many purposes, including recreational activities and for civic organizations.

According to property records, the school sits on 3.26 acres of land and has a gross living area (GLA) of 31,185 square feet.

Both towns and the school board received independent appraisals for the property this year. Region 16 received an appraisal of $1,225,000 from Arthur B. Estrada & Associates, Inc. Prospect got an appraisal of $1,250,000 from Wellspeak Dugas & Kane, LLC. Beacon Falls’ appraisal was done by Sheehy Associates, LLC, and came in at $1,510,000.

The Prospect Town Council originally offered $783,350 for the school. This offer was reached by taking the average of the three appraisals and subtracting $545,000 for what Prospect officials feel are immediate repairs needed for the building. The council hired Resource Monitoring Solutions to inspect the building and provide cost estimates for repairs. The $545,000 includes $225,000 to fix the roof, which leaks in multiple spots.

The school board reviewed the first offer in executive session Oct. 14. The board rejected the offer and unanimously voted to set the sales price at $873,000, which the Town Council subsequently agreed to meet.

Beacon Falls officials, who want the chance to negotiate the sale with Prospect, are upset with the $873,000 price. They contend that the appraisals for the school are “as is” appraisals and took into account repairs needed to the building.

The appraisals done by Arthur B. Estrada & Associates for Region 16 and Sheehy Associates for Region 16 both use the term “as is” when describing the market value the companies reached for the property. The appraisal done by Wellspeak Dugas & Kane for Prospect doesn’t use the term.

Beacon Falls First Selectman Chris Bielik told the board last week that reducing the sales price for work that needs to be done to the building is taking “ two bites of the same apple.”

Bielik asked Donald Sheehy Jr. of Sheehy Associates to clarify his definition of “as is market value.” In a letter Bielik gave to the board and the media, Sheehy states as is market value is defined in his report as, “the estimate of market value of real property in its current physical condition, use and zoning, and as of the appraisal date.”

Sheehy stated in the letter that his appraisal of the market value of the property would have been higher under the hypothetical condition that all of the repairs to the school were completed.

Bielik said the decision the board reached on Oct. 14 was made with incomplete information

“When the board acted they didn’t have all the information they needed in order to make a fair and equitable decision on moving forward with this sale,” Bielik said.

Prospect Town Council Chairman Tom Galvin said the council feels its offer is a fair one. He added that he doesn’t think appraisers are qualified to judge the condition of the building, especially the roof, without physically inspecting it. That is why the council hired Resource Monitoring Solutions, he said.

Prospect officials want the sale to proceed as quickly as possible. They contend that the longer the school sits without repairs the more the building will fall into disrepair and end up costing the region more to maintain.

“The longer the building stays empty the more it’s going to deteriorate,” Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield told the board last week.

The town of Beacon Falls is preparing to prevent the sale of the school to Prospect for $873,000 in court.

The Beacon Falls Board of Selectman voted during a special meeting Oct. 30 to authorize litigation and the filing of Freedom of Information complaints against Region 16, the school board and, and if necessary, the town of Prospect regarding the sale, according to meeting minutes.

According to the minutes, town attorney Fred Stanek said the first step is determining grounds to file an FOI complaint. The next step is determining the proper timing and grounds to file an injunction to stop the sale from proceeding, he said.

Bielik said last week the town is pursuing legal action because the people of Beacon Falls deserve a fair and equitable process.

While Galvin feels the price for the school is fair, he said he understands why Beacon Falls would pursue legal action.

“I think every elected official has an obligation to do what they feel is in the best interest of the taxpayers of their town,” Galvin said.

Voters to decide sale

Even though the school board has approved the sale of the school, the voters in the region will have the final say.

Voters in Prospect will have to approve buying the school for $873,000. Galvin said a town meeting will have to be scheduled in Prospect. He said the meeting likely won’t happen until the second week of November, at the earliest.

If Prospect voters OK buying the school, voters in Beacon Falls and Prospect will then have to vote to allow the region to sell it.

“It goes to the voters; the taxpayers,” Hiscox said. “That’s the beauty of it.”

The money from any sale of the building will be returned to the towns based on the student population ration. Prospect would receive about 60 percent with Beacon Falls getting about 40 percent. If the sale for $873,000 is approved, Beacon Falls would receive roughly $349,000.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Jd – you are correct that things always look better elsewhere But I have intimate knowledge of that system for years and overlooking they are ranked yearly as one of the best while keeping their expenses reasonable, you dont get the total screwing like you get here every year with us paying for Mayor Bob’s showcase wants. And before you say that is a far more influential town I will agree but they have services and every club you could imagine while keeping hikes within normal expected numbers.

    What makes that work is Prospect wanted that Tagh Mahl (? Spelling on phone) and we dont want to do anything to LL or less or even more than what is being done, that is BF decision NOT Mayor Bob.

  2. The grass always looks greener somewhere else. What Mr Ploss fails to tell you is that there are as many people in Region 9 that dislike their two school board system as there might be those like himself, dislike the Region 16 single board setup.

  3. Transparency!!! Again the BOE thumbs its nose to the people of Beacon Falls.To my elected officials of Beacon Falls PLEASE FIGHT this!!!

  4. surgemtff – the process I believe that works the best in all honesty is Region 9 and I have been fighting to convert us to that style. What makes that really work for BOTH towns (Easton, Redding) is that there are 2 BOEs for each town. 1 for the local non-shared schools and 1 for the shared schools like the high school. They keep costs down because if one town wants to upgrade their elementary school the other densest have to eat that $$$. You also then get the benefit (and you are correct in if is there one) in being in a Region which the state really wants you to be because of buying power to try to keep costs down. Everyone says I’m stupid for keep saying this because there would be startup/conversion costs and issues such as with separating the teacher union and other services from 1 into 2 for each town. But once it is done there would be a lot more harmony then there is now.

  5. Sorry when I made my reply before did from my phone and some typos was the phone auto-correcting and some was just not really being able to review properly from a full screen.

    The 2 that I really want to make correct (and go right ahead and blast me for the others lol) is that we usually pay in the top 30% statewide with our education budgets BUT always seem to be in the 60% overall education ranking.

    The 2nd is that the BOE NEVER answers questions when asked – only the Superintendent and maybe the Chair. Why?? Why dont they feel accountable enough to answer given you as a citizen took your time (which being at night is usually family time) to drive there, wait till the get to public comment, and then (unless gone there before and know the process) sit there like an a$$ waiting till the end for an answer that never comes??? It is clear that THEY DON’T RESPECT YOUR TIME BY NOT GIVING YOU THERE’S. Just because they say they dont have to and never done it before doesn’t make it right – along the same lines as them spending that surplus on items that WAS NOT in the original budget YOU VOTED FOR. May be legal but their ethics and moral values are showing loud and clear.

  6. Also I am requesting that CN prints the replies to this article assuming they are planning to print the original article.

  7. surgemtff – thanks for your reply. I agree with a lot of what you say BUT the thing that you are missing (and in no way attacking or saying anything bad about you) is that with the schools then you are correct to a large extent. This is different in that Prospect is not using this as a school BUT for a Mayor Bob legacy shrine. That is where the issues play into this. I understand the aspect of wanting to get the cheapest you can BUT since it is not going to be a Region building to make Beacon Falls pay for reapirs is not correct.

    Given that you are only actually paynig 40% of the selling price lets look at some numbers here.
    – The current deal in place is for $873,000 which means that you pay approx $350k.
    – If Prospect offered $1M (which I thin is the actual fair $$ for both towns) you pay $400k
    – If Prospect paid their appraisal number of $1,250,000 you pay $500k.

    Please dont tell me that a remotely fair offer of $1M which means an extra $50k is going to break Prospect. Prospect doesnt need to rub it in our faces ever time.

    There really is a bigger picture here also in that the BOE and the Region is just lost control of the entire process. Their spending the surplus on items that weren’t in the budget while legal is really unethical. The budget surpluses are just out their and inexcusable. We pay on average in the upper 30% in the state but average 60%’s for the most part. What about the roof issue you mentioned for Long River. They knew about the problem and could had tried alot harder than they did to force the contractor that did the roof to repair while under warranty. And I could go on and on. You see surgemtff it just isnt about Beacon Falls because ALL OF THE ABOVE affects YOUR TAX $$$ also. Why does the BOE members EVER ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS during a meeting?? I know in my town you go to a BOE, BOF, P&Z, etc you ask a question you usually will get an answer of sort.

    There are many of us that just want to get the citizens of both towns to recognize there are potential issues that they may not have really been aware of so they can take appropriate action.

  8. Re: One thought on Board OKs school sale

    Brian I see the Points you are trying to make. I am a Prospect resident and I have ¾ of my children attending Region schools. It is a shame of how everything is going down and I for one was unaware of the 60/40 split between the towns. I have only been a resident of this town for a year now. I’ve never lived in a town with split school systems (where more than one town is involved) before. I feel two ways about this sale too. As a taxpayer to Prospect I want the lowest cost, but as a reasonable person I see how you can argue for the fair market price. Beacon Falls is definitely on the losing end of this deal, but how much has gone into Laurel Ledge over the years that Prospect has not seen any benefit from. I’m sure that the region had put a lot into Algonquin and Community in the past also. Also the deal the towns made many many years ago for the building of Long River MS in Prospect to have Woodland HS built in Beacon Falls. Again I’m new to regional schooling and not sure how beneficial it really is. Are both town really getting the full benefit from this anymore since the population has grown a lot since the region has been formed? I would like to thank you for your insight to the issue and I hope that the full story from both sides can be heard.

  9. I was at the meeting and as a citizen of Beacon Falls I believe there are some issues/concerns here that people both in Prospect and Beacon Falls need to know.

    1) Mayor Bob darn near tripped over himself trying to break a leg to get out still talking as he was putting his jacket on so he didn’t have to listen to 1st Selectmen Bielik thank Prospect and the BOE/Region for screwing Beacon Falls. What this shows is Mayor Bob’s true colors of being a bully and not caring enough about his sister city to at least show the same level of respect I am sure his position demands. If the roles were reversed I am positive that calls complaining would be made to Washington and he would demand holly intervention to sooth his ego.

    2) A 3rd Beacon Falls member, Sheryl Feduccia ALSO asked to shelve the vote since it was clear from 1st Selectmen Bielik that the town was authorized to peruse legal remedies, Ms Feduccia said that even though she supported the sale instead of sitting on the property till someone buys it, she though it was financially prudent to hold on the vote for discussions in the hopes that neither town would incur legal fees unnecessarily. Short of the comments about trying to possibly avoid legal fees, the above is confirmed by the BOE minutes. Also several of us would like to know why the Beacon Falls members that stayed abstained and walked out (like Dave and Pricilla did) or voted?? By abstaining THEY WASTED THEIR VOTE!!!!!

    Now even according to Common Core that means that a minimum of 3 members had issues significant enough to raise questions and concerns moving forward.

    3) “It goes to the voters; the taxpayers,” Hiscox said. “That’s the beauty of it.”
    Let’s be real clear on this. BOE Chair Hiscox is from Prospect. That automatically puts his motives in question. Also his statement is a joke meant for nothing more than public consumption to hide facts. Even at full turnout, Beacon Falls does not have enough votes to stop this. Mr. Hiscox, if you are going to pull a fast one at least be a man and say what you are doing. I have made no bones or hide with fancy words when I questioned the integrity of the entire board (yourself included) and the Region singling out Superintendent Yamin. I don’t use smokescreens when I repeatedly say that the entire board should resign including Superintendent Yamin.

    4) “I’m disappointed that it happen,” Hiscox said about Cretella and Rybinski leaving the meeting. “I respect their decision. They’re under a lot of pressure; a lot of negative pressure in Beacon Falls.”
    Elected officials and citizens of Beacon Falls are trying to protect town interests and it is deemed as “negative pressure??” Let’s look at this in a different direction, are they getting the same pressure that you are getting from Mayor Bob to ram the vote and process through at all costs???

    5) Beacon Falls Board of Finance authorized the Board of Selectmen to take action on this matter so it is more than just the BOS that have an issue with Beacon Falls being forced to pay for repairs to a building that Beacon Falls citizens WILL NOT GET A RETURN ON THEIR INVESTMENT.

    6) “The money from any sale of the building will be returned to the towns based on the student population ration. Prospect would receive about 60 percent with Beacon Falls getting about 40 percent. If the sale for $873,000 is approved, Beacon Falls would receive roughly $349,000.”
    For the article to truly state what Prospect actually pays, based on the $873,000 price it really needs to be stated very very clearly since I KNOW FOR A FACT BEING ABUSED ON FACEBOOK AND IN PERSON FOR THE LAST WEEK THAT PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON AND NUMBERS ACTUALLY ARE. Based Prospect’s 60% (or $523,800 of the sale price) ALL Prospect ACTUALLY PAYS is the approx $350k for a $1.2M property assessed by Prospect’s by Wellspeak Dugas & Kane, at $1,250,000 (believe is actually over $3M on Prospect’s books).

    Now that is a lot of numbers and almost everyone I have talked to just don’t get it. Prospect is paying $350 PERIOD AND FORCING Beacon Falls to pay for repairs in a build THEY DO NOT USE!?!?!? When I first heard that the only thing that came to mind was “Houston we have a problem…..”

    7) It was said during the meeting but not documented in the minutes that the building has been on the market for a while and is one of the reasons the BOE is doing cart wheels to give it to Mayor Bob. I know of at least one other person that heard that and we both looked at each other saying that we never knew it was on the market.

    I guarantee that people are reading this and saying WHY did I waste my time writing this and why their’s reading?? Simple – the BOE is out of control and honestly lost touch of the entire process and this was the last straw for several of us. In the BOE minutes I clearly state that they have no honor BUT it doesn’t state that several people including myself begged Beacon Falls members to walk out (breaking the quorum) OR RESIGN IMMEDIATELY. It also doesn’t state that I outright said based on his actions and printed statements in the CN that Superintendent Yamin has lost total touch with the citizens and making many question that if he actually believes what he said is he actually competent to perform the duties of Superintendent and thus should resign also.

    Again we don’t want you to take what we say as gospel like they expect you to do with their statements of quality of education they deliver and decisions they make relating to property management and others. All we beg you to do is DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK and not be “Pied Piper” or one of Jim Jone’s followers ready to drink the Kool Aid at all costs. As they say “It is for the kids” YES IT IS YOUR KIDS AND YOUR TAX DOLLARS…..