Since 2016, Town Officials, staff and volunteers have been working to fulfill a vision for greater public access to the Mystic River, along with establishing a new center for rowing for people of all ages and abilities. Town Officials and staff have also been working to put forward a long-term solution to preserve a historic school in downtown Pawcatuck since 2019. In regards to both properties, two long-term leases have been developed and will go before residents for a vote at a Town Meeting, tentatively scheduled for September 12, 2022.
St. Michael School
St. Michael School entered into a short-term lease with the Town of Stonington in May 2020. The duration of this lease is three years, with the option to renew for an additional two years. There is a small rent of $300/month, and St. Michael’s is responsible for operational costs (e.g., heating fuel, electricity, landscaping, snow removal, etc.) as well as interior repairs. Under the existing lease the Town of Stonington is responsible for the building envelope and building systems (e.g., boiler, fire suppression, roof, etc.). The short-term lease allows for both parties to see if this arrangement would suit their respective needs. In the past two years, St. Michael School has seen an increase in enrollment to levels not seen since 2006 and is now interested in a long-term lease for the West Broad Street School.
In exchange for the longer-term lease, St. Michael School is willing to take on the costs of the historic building, including needed capital repairs and improvements, of which there are many. The basic terms of the new lease would be for 15 years, with the option to renew for an additional 10 years. The same, nominal rent of $300/month would be in effect, but with St. Michael assuming responsibility for all building costs. The Town of Stonington retains ownership of the building, and the use of the building as a school cannot change during the tenure of the lease. It is also important residents know that during the summers of 2020 and 2021, St. Michael School made a number of improvements to the building interior. All classrooms and hallways on the first and second floors, as well as the third-floor auditorium have been repainted. Asbestos floor tiles in seven classrooms and in the main office were abated. The original maple floors underneath were also repaired and refurbished.
During the summer of 2022, St. Michael School made capital repairs to the roof and chimneys, including:
- All four chimneys were repointed, cleaned, and sealed. New counter flashing at the chimney base will be installed before the opening of school.
- The entire roof was replaced which included the removal of 3 layers of shingles (in some places 4). In some areas the roof decking was also replaced.
- Rain gutters will be repaired before the opening of school.
- Damage to ceilings and walls in the third-floor classrooms due to roof leaks will be repaired prior the opening of school. These four classrooms will be repainted.
For the projects listed above, St. Michael School has invested $365,000 in the West Broad Street School building over the past two years, in addition to countless volunteer hours on many of these projects.
The school is interested in undertaking a number of additional capital projects to restore and preserve the building, such as:
- Repointing, cleaning, and sealing all exterior brickwork.
- Repainting all exterior trim.
- Renovation of all bathrooms.
- Repair or replacement of windows
St. Michael School is eager to address these projects, but would like to enjoy the benefits of its investment through long-term use of the building for its educational program. Having high-quality education options in addition to our excellent Stonington Public Schools, positions the town as an attractive community to those relocating to our area. Through a continued partnership of St. Michael School and the Town of Stonington, both can work toward the renewal of a local historic treasure and allow it to continue to function as a school as it was originally intended.
Public Park and Rowing Center
Town residents approved the purchase of what is often referred to as the ‘Mystic River Boathouse Park’ at a Town Meeting in 2016. Since then, the project has faced a few challenges that have delayed the project. However, in 2021 the town was able to secure a $753,889 state grant for environmental remediation needed to create the public park. Since that time Town Officials, staff and volunteers have been working to move the project forward. A key part of the end vision is for Stonington Community Rowing, Inc. (SCRI) to raise funds to construct a Boathouse and meet State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) requirements for restoring the ‘Lovelace’ house that must remain on the site. SCRI plans to raise $2.5 million to make this plan a reality, and have already raised over half that amount to-date.
The SCRI has taken on the momentous task of not only raising all the funds required to build the newly named Jim Dietz Community Rowing Center, Hart Perry Boathouse, and public restrooms, but also address improvements needed to restore the ‘Lovelace’ house. Once construction and improvements are complete, SCRI give these properties to the Town, in exchange for a long-term lease. The proposed lease is for 25 years, with the option to renew for another 25 years so long as an active, community rowing program is being run out of the facilities. The lease would not go into effect until all the buildings and related work are completed.
At the August 10th Board of Selectmen meeting, the Board discussed both of the draft lease agreements publicly and plans to do so again during its August 25ht meeting. The plan is to send the two leases to residents for a Town Meeting vote, tentatively scheduled for September 12, 2022 at Stonington High School. Residents are encouraged to reach out to the First Selectman with any questions ahead of the Town Meeting.
Informal Public Events
For those interested in learning more about progress taking place in regards to the rowing center and the public park, there will be an informal, public meeting at 5:30pm on August 31, 2022 at Latitude 41 (105 Greenmanville Ave). There will be representatives from Stonington Parks and Rec, the SCRI, Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic Seaport Museum, and others to share updates on planned rowing and non-rowing activities for the community. To learn more about SCRI, including video interviews with various program stakeholders, visit: stoningtoncommunityrowing.org. Also, see flyer attached.
Similarly, St. Michael School will hold an open house, including a tour to see the improvement made, on August 30th from 5:30-7:00 pm at the school (131 West Broad Street).
We are fortunate to have a great team working hard to find long-term solutions that benefit our broader community. The goal of both leases is to create positive benefits for Stonington residents and the broader community for years to come. Please contact the First Selectman's Office with questions. Thank you Stonington.
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