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 He added that there's asbestos in the floor tile, the heating system's outdated and the school has structural problems.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?”