Town-owned house falling into disrepair

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A number of items need repair at the Tracy Lewis House on the town-owned property at 35 Wolfe Ave. in Beacon Falls. –FILE PHOTO
A number of items need repair at the Tracy Lewis House on the town-owned property at 35 Wolfe Ave. in Beacon Falls. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — The Tracy Lewis House is in need of repair as officials determine the future of the town-owned property.

The house at 35 Wolfe Ave. has not been maintained since voters approved buying it for $425,000 in August 2008.

Since the town has not done anything to the house, which used to be the home of Tracy Lewis, the president of Beacon Falls Rubber Shoe Co., it has begun to fall into disrepair.

Michael Krenesky, who serves as the custodian of the property, said the two main concerns are the security of the building and the porch.

“Water is leaking into the second floor porch and has damaged the wood ceiling. Water is pooling in that ceiling area and is now leaking onto the tin floor that is the roof over the first floor porch,” Krenesky said.

Krenesky said an informal inspection of the house has shown that the porch and portico are detaching from the main house due to the damage. The chimneys are also breaking down causing bricks to fall to the ground, he said.

The main entrance to the house also needs a new lock to ensure trespassers are kept out, he added.

Currently, the house is used by Beacon Hose Company No. 1 as a training site for rescue procedures. The town also uses the property for events and the site of a community garden.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik said Krenesky recommended the town either find funds to fix the home or to demolish it because the house as it stands now is a safety hazard.

Bielik said a conditions assessment and reuse study for the site done two years after the purchase of the house laid out the cost of renovating and demolishing the house. The study took into consideration building a proposed 19,000-square-foot library and community center on the property.

According to the study, at the time it would have cost $4.2 million to renovate the building with an addition for the proposed use. It would cost $3.9 million to raze it and build a 19,000-square-foot library.

Bielik said the bottom line of the study was that it would cost less to demolish the house than to renovate it.

Since the town voted to purchase the property, there has only been one vote on the future of the house.

“The only official vote on record is from four years ago where selectmen voted to take the house down,” Bielik said.

While the town is making a decision on how to proceed, Bielik said, the town needs to secure money in order to fix the safety issues at the house.

Krenesky said he met with Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation Director of Preservation Services Jane Montanaro to discuss what funding is available for the property.

“She recommended filing for the grants as soon as possible,” Krenesky said.

Krenesky said a complete renovation of the house would require a lot of work, including an overhaul of the electrical and plumbing systems, replacing the boiler, replacing walls that are cracked, updating windows and doorways, and either replacing or repairing the siding.

Bielik said if the town chose to demolish the house, it would not be an easy task.

“Doing it safely is probably going to make the process more expensive that just knocking down a wall,” Bielik said.

Regardless of the direction the town ultimately chooses to proceed with the house, Bielik said he believes building a library and community center on the site is a good long-term use of that property.