WESTERLY — The Town Council agreed by consensus Monday to hold onto the Bradford School building for the time being.
The disposition of the building, which the School Committee formally turned over to the council in March, took on new relevance following voters' rejection on Oct. 10 of the proposed school building project. On Monday, some members of the council said they were reluctant to sell the building until plans for a new proposed school building project emerge.
"I don't want two sets of buildings, however I feel like we're in flux ... I don't know what the future holds for us. What if there's a possibility that we need to utilize that building? So I think, if nothing else, certainly we don't need to put a 'for sale' sign on it right now," Councilor Karen Cioffi said.
Cioffi went on to question why "we haven't heard anything about moving forward" with a new school building plan and asked if there is something the council should be doing to assist.
Councilor Caswell Cooke Jr. noted that the School Committee voted on Oct. 23 to seek requests for proposals from companies interested in conducting a poll and data-collection effort to help the School Committee understand why residents voted the way they did on Oct. 10 and why they voted the way they did in 2016 when a different school building project also failed. Cooke also noted that the process set out by the state required the school district to hire consultants to assist with developing the two projects that were rejected by voters.
"We don't know and I think that's why the School Committee is pausing to take this poll of the town of Westerly after all this money has been spent for two referendums — hundreds of thousands of dollars that's been spent for two failed attempts to do something for our children. We have, you have, I have, we all have tried to do something for the kids for the last three years, all of which have failed, so I think we're all working in that direction but I think we need to let the next process work, which is the survey," Cooke said.
The School Committee took Bradford School off-line as a school following the completion of the 2017 academic year.
Cooke went on to call for a complete closure of the Bradford School building, which in recent months has been used as office space by Paul Duffy, the town's recreation director, and his assistant. But other councilors suggested expanded use of the building.
Councilor Suzanne Giorno said she favored using the building for Recreation Department winter programs. Councilor William Aiello said he favored the building being used as a public school but said it could also be used for a mix of uses including recreation, education, and training.
"It would truly be a shame not to use that facility. We ought to be asking how can we best utilize it," Aiello said.
Councilor Sharon Ahern supported Cooke's idea, saying the building should be winterized to prevent potential damage and held onto until the School Committee's plans are clear.
The council also agreed to have Town Manager J. Mark Rooney present information on how much it would cost to prepare the building for winter recreation programs and to discuss the building again once Rooney completes his work.