Prospect shows interest in buying Community School back

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Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield wants to buy Community School if a referendum to build a new elementary in Prospect passes Dec. 20.

PROSPECT — Mayor Robert Chatfield has his eye on Community school.

If the Dec. 20 referendum on Region 16’s proposed school project passes, the 75-year-old building will no longer house Prospect students.

Chatfield said he would like to buy out Beacon Fall’s share of the regional building and repurpose it as a community center.

“I would take it in a heartbeat,” Chatfield said.

As of the 2005 valuation, Community School was assessed at $2.8 million. The building is 51,500 square feet, including an unfinished basement, and situated on 3.26 acres of land.

Chatfield said the school’s roof would need repair, but the rest of the school underwent a renovation 10 years ago and is in good shape.

“It’s one of the most sturdy schools in the region,” Chatfield said.

If Prospect owned the building, Chatfield said the first thing he would do would be to install a generator to run the whole building as an emergency shelter. During the October snowstorm, dozens of Prospect residents stayed at the Prospect Fire House for warmth and electricity.

Chatfield had plenty of other ideas about how the town could use the space.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a long, long, long time,” Chatfield said.

Two separate plans to build one central school for Prospect elementary students have failed in the past 20 years.

Chatfield said he envisioned the Board of Recreation moving its offices to the building and using the space for programming such as indoor sports, arts and crafts, and other afterschool activities.

Board of Recreation Director Christopher Moffo welcomed the idea.

“I think it would be a great addition to the town if we picked it up as a community center,” Moffo said.

Moffo said he would like to have the majority of his programs in one central location.

Currently, the Board of Recreation competes with other groups for space at the Grange, Meeting Place, Chapel Hall, and district schools.

“It just makes it kind of difficult,” he said.

Moffo said the space could be used for concerts, plays, aerobics classes, and other activities, and the space would be available to everyone in the community.

However, all those dreams are on hold until voters approve the $46.7 million plan to build a new pre-K through fifth grade elementary school in Prospect, renovations and additions to Laurel Ledge School in Beacon Falls, and renovations to Algonquin School in Prospect to convert that facility into the Board of Education’s district offices.

The proposed new school in Prospect would replace Community and Algonquin schools. Originally, the Board of Education planned to sell both schools. But, during the design phase of the project school officials discovered a deed on Algonquin School that limited its use to school or recreational purposes. Once the deed was discovered, the plans changed course and renovation Algonquin for the district’s office turned out to be a cheaper option that building new office space.

If Community School becomes available, Chatfield said the town would have to set up a committee to negotiate terms with Beacon Falls and appraise the building.

“I think because we’re part-owner of the building, we should have the first shot (at buying it),” Chatfield said.

Ultimately, Prospect voters would have to approve the buy-out.

The property is surrounded by other parcels of town property, including Town Hall, the Town Green, the Prospect Library, and the Fire House.

“I think it would be a very serious mistake if the town didn’t take it back,” Chatfield said.