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Noank School Could Cost Up To $4 Million to Fix Up

Former School Facilities Director Wes Greenleaf asks himself if it's worth it and answers, ‘My feeling right now is, ‘No way'.’

The former facilities director for Groton Public Schools said it would cost $3 million to $4 million to properly rehabilitate the former Noank School, not the $300,000 the Noank Fire District believes.

Greenleaf, who maintained the building for 30 years, said the roof leaks, the windows need replacing and two exits aren't handicapped accessible. He added that there's asbestos in the floor tile, the heating system's outdated and the school has structural problems.

“I can’t imagine the investment isn’t going to be well over $3 million in the long run. Is it worth it, and what would we use it for?" he said. “Why would we even want it? In my opinion as a taxpayer, it should be torn down and the building sold for lots.”

Greenleaf said when he asks himself if it’s worth it, he answers “My feeling right now is ‘No way.’”

The asking for a "memorandum of understanding" granting the district permission to use the building so it could seek grant money to fix it. The district wants to repair brickwork, paint the outside metal and wood trim, replace broken or missing windows and cover the roof. It estimated the total cost at $300,000 to $450,000.

District leaders said if they couldn't get grants to pay for it all, they'd petition taxpayers to see if they'd agree to cover the costs.

Greenleaf said he believes the estimates are vastly understated. This is what he said the building needs:

New windows. The windows at the school, some of which are broken, are single-pane glass and not adequate to run the building efficiently, he said. In addition, Groton is in a hurricane zone, so windows must be able to withstand high winds and high impact.

When the school department replaced the windows at Claude Chester Elementary, it cost $700,000, he said. Greenleaf said in some respects, the buildings aren’t comparable because Claude Chester is larger and the fire district might opt to replace only some windows in the Noan building. But he added, “That gives you an order of magnitude.”

A new roof. The flat roof at Noank School is leaking, and the fire district’s plan is to spray it with a cover to buy some time rather than replace it.

“My experience is it never works," Greenleaf said. "Once a flat roof begins to leak, it has to be replaced. As simple as that. You’re simply fooling yourself and you’re wasting money” to do otherwise.

Ramps at two exits.  The section of the building the fire district hopes to use has steps at two exits which don’t allow wheelchair access. Greenleaf said he doesn’t know whether ramps would have to be installed immediately or could be done later, but the situation would have to be corrected eventually.

“I don’t know how they can avoid it,” he said, adding, “I don’t think you want to operate a building where handicapped people can’t get out the door.”

Asbestos removal. The school has asbestos throughout, mostly in the floor tile, but also in the glue that holds up some of the blackboards. The fire district plans to cover the floors to deal with this issue, but Greenleaf said that only works if the tile is in tact. In the long run, it creates a more expensive problem, he said.

A new heating system and structural repairs. Greenleaf said the heating system in the building is outdated and may not even work. He also said the building has cracks in the brick and masonry that must be fixed.

He said the fire district needs an architect to estimate the true costs.

“They’ve really, really got to get a solid understanding of what this building’s going to cost to get fully functional,” he said. “So what is Noank getting into? And why is it justified?”

B.R.E.E. March 13, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Obviously it should be sold. Nice homes could be built. It is so interesting that the ones that complain about the high taxes in Groton are the ones that support this idea of maintaing this facility. I guess taxes are high when it goes to support items outside of their neighborhood.
Larry Lynch March 13, 2013 at 12:56 PM
A little application of "common sense" would be nice for once in Groton. Should we spend a bunch of "Tax dollars" to fix up a building we aren't using (and don't have a defined use for)? Should we tear down (or better yet sell as is) and sell a piece of property we do not need to someone who can actually use it and ADD to the tax rolls? Set aside your "fond memories" and "wishful thinking" people, and do the right thing... GET RID OF IT!
Bobbi Jo Cini March 13, 2013 at 01:05 PM
Finally some common sense. Sell it.
Jason Lewis March 13, 2013 at 01:32 PM
Selling would make sense... so Groton will try to fix it and pass it on to the tax payers. SELL IT!
Bobbi Jo Cini March 13, 2013 at 01:45 PM
One more simple thought. Sell all the empty schools that we do not need.
Ed March 13, 2013 at 04:16 PM
Mr Greenleaf is correct...on all accounts. However some neighbors think that 5 or 6 age restricted new homes would be an invasion of their privacy. To respect their desires, the building should be razed, loam imported and grass planted. The NSRC, deservedly, should be commended for the many dedicated hours spent formulating their plan. The proposal does however appeared to be financially flawed . New construction figures are rarely off. Renovation figures are always off...in this case WAY off. And those estimates are only for 13,000sf of the total 28,000sf. Also, there has been no pro forma financial statement publicized that would indicate that this would be a financially successful venture. Further, this is not Mystic Academy or Groton Heights School with historical architectural features worth saving. It is on life support. It's time to pull the plug.
michael noel March 13, 2013 at 04:31 PM
The reuse committee was trying to save the building and little to no expense to the taxpayer. The town doesn't have the money to tear it down. Now it will just fall down on it's own. Seems like a waste. Sad that a stupid little petition might derail the hard work of a well meaning committee.
Ed Johnson March 14, 2013 at 03:57 AM
If Mr. Greenleaf says it will cost $3 to $4 million to repair to entire building, this might explain why some school projects cost so much in the past. People have missed the point. The Noank Re-use committee spent considerable time and came up with a reasonable plan at realistic costs to start using the building in stages. $300 to $400 thousand is NOt unrealistic and, remember, this will not be for school use. I had a handicap ramp installed for $5,000. We had a large flat roof membrane installed at my church that holds up very well. People need to use imagination. And the Town Council should allow the committee to seek funding, rather than support the undermining of the project by a group that might have other plans for the building...which they didn't want to discuss at our public meeting.

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