032219 PAW West Broad Street school closing 370.JPG

The rear of the West Broad Street School in Pawcatuck. Friday, March 22, 2019. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

STONINGTON — The playground at the recently closed West Broad Street School will remain open for public use, according to Public Works Director Barbara McKrell, but the basketball court will most likely be fenced off.

At the Board of Selectmen's meeting Wednesday night, McKrell outlined her department’s plans to maintain the 120-year-old building.

The stately four-story brick structure, which is now vacant, was turned over to the town of Stonington by the Board of Education. It most recently accommodated third- and fourth-graders until they were moved to the West Vine Street School on April 1.

The school will officially be turned over to the town on June 1, McKrell said.

First Selectman Rob Simmons said, “This is a beautiful historic building, but it has to be secured. We will do everything possible to maintain the facade and historic vista, so it continues to have the architectural beauty we associate with the building.”

The property is to be kept free of weeds, junk and discarded items such as furniture or anything that would give the property the appearance of being vacant, McKrell said.

McKrell said that while the property will be fenced off, there will be no fencing facing Route 1.

The Department of Public Works, she said, will inspect the building with daily walkthroughs, to make sure no windows have been broken and everything is intact. Stonington police will also have a patrol officer making daily checks of the building.

The school’s appearance will not change, McKrell said. The surrounding vegetation will be maintained, and the grass will be cut on a regular basis.

“The building has a fire lane alongside it,” she said, “but we can’t just gate that up.” Access, she said, is required for safety reasons.

Systems such as fire alarms, sprinklers and security alarms will be kept active, McKrell said, to keep the building at a “functioning level.”

Simmons noted that the Department of Education would share some of the utilities and maintenance costs.

Two members of the Stonington Facilities Committee, which is addressing uses for the former school, also reported on their progress.

Committee member Paul Sartor said the committee has held three open houses so far that were attended a total of about 100 people.

Sartor said he had attendees fill out 4x6 index cards with remembrances of the school, and suggestions for uses.

Sartor noted the school is in a primarily residential zone, so a business cannot be located there unless there is a zoning change.

“We’re in the information collection stage, so we really have a long way to go,” he said. He also added that the committee has no power to make decisions on the property use: The selectmen will decide.

Committee member Chris Donahue said the group would keep things transparent for all interested residents.

“I think we’ve started out right, and now we’re going to the fact-finding part,” Donahue said.

Selectman John Prue said he was pleased that the committee had “gotten the legs under them” and that they should be able to work through the issues quickly.

Sartor said the timeline to make a decision on potential uses for the school would be about six months, or possibly sooner.

Selectwoman Jocelyn Kepple noted that St. Michael the Archangel Church had expressed interest in the property.

Sartor acknowledged that the Rev. Dennis Perkins, pastor of the church had toured the building during a walkthrough.

“If that is an option, I don’t see why it can’t happen,” Sartor said. “It’s just a matter of, will it work.”

Kepple said at the end of the meeting that there is “a lot of change going on in town.”

“I’m hoping people have an open mind and are listening to each other,” she said.

Prue added that public debate about the community is a great thing, “as long as it doesn’t get personal.”

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