A resident of the Noank Fire District has drafted a petition and said he will proceed with it if necessary to stop the plan to reuse the former Noank School.
Robert Frink, a member of the permanent school building committee and resident of the fire district, has drafted a petition which asks the Groton Town Council to deny Noank leaders permission to take over the former school. Frink said the building is in terrible shape, there’s no strong reason to use it, and it'll add to the bills for taxpayers.
“You’ve heard about the school budget, they’re cutting this, they’re cutting that. Why in the world are we putting money into this thing?” he said.
Frink said the property should be developed instead.
“The best outcome for everybody, in my mind, is that the property is sold, houses are built and we all get new neighbors," he said. "What’s wrong with neighbors?”
The asking for a "memorandum of understanding" granting the district permission to use the building so it could seek grant money to fix it. That memorandum is being drafted and is expected to be voted on as early as Tuesday.
The fire district wants to repair the school brickwork, paint the outside metal and wood trim, replace broken or missing windows and cover the roof, which is leaking.
The cost would range from $300,000 to $450,000.
Fire district leaders said if they were unable to get the grants to complete the work, they would petition taxpayers of the fire district and ask if they would accept a higher tax rate to cover the cost.
John F. Williams, a lifelong resident of Noank and owner of several area businesses, said he questions the need for the project and how many people would benefit.
“Where’s this profound lack of usable facilities to current Noank residents?” he said, adding that the town looked at the age and condition of the school and opted out.
Williams said the fire district could also face unknowns during remodeling like asbestos, lead paint and mold, and end up with a money pit. He added that the property would require upkeep.
“How many people will actually use this facility enough to warrant our taxes going up?” he said.
Williams said if a decision is made, it should be made by majority vote after a well-publicized and open process, not approved at a meeting relatively few attend.
The vote that approved the general idea of having the fire district take over the school was 46-9.
Stephanie Marshall, one of the 9 who voted no, said she's concerned about the cost.
“My main concern is that the taxpayers of Noank fire district are going to end up shouldering the burden of this if it goes through,” she said. “I don’t believe that there’s $300,000 of grant money out there.”
The plan for the Noank Fire District's management of the former Noank School and the refurbishment estimates are available as PDFs attached to this article.