Town Council Tables Vote on Center School's Future

It may be a while before the Town Council decides what action should be taken regarding Center School.

With only six members available to vote, town councilors opted at Monday’s special meeting to table a proposed resolution that would have prevented Center School from being torn down and eventually cleared to make room for a Transit-Oriented Development project.

Councilors were set to consider a motion from Sixth District Councilman Philip Young that would have prevented the town from razing the school building, located on Sutton Avenue. An amendment to the proposal was offered to stop any of the Phase 3 environmental testing to be done, but that work began on Monday morning.

The council would have needed six votes to pass any resolution, but with only seven councilors available Monday and Council Minority Leader Vincent Chase recusing himself, it appeared that there were not enough votes to support anything. 

Council Chairman Beth Daponte said she does not expect to call for another special meeting to discuss the Center School matter.

Daponte, who said she spent the weekend reading documents on what could be done with the Center School site, said she thinks it has use even if the building isn’t maintained as a school.

“I think that that school, in a diverse district, is very valuable to the town,” she said. “The cost of the school could be offset by some busing costs to some degree. It’s also a school that’s built to be handicapped accessible, so it’s a unique building.”

Daponte added that she did not think that the plan has been fully vetted to make a decision.

While it could be taken off of the table at the Council’s Aug. 8, Daponte and 10th District Councilman Tina Manus both mentioned that District 2 does not have Council representation. Former councilman Mark Dumas resigned in June. A special election will be held on Oct. 13 to fill the vacancies in Districts 2 and 5.

Mayor John Harkins, who held a press conference earlier in the day, reiterated that the town would lose a state grant intended for testing and razing the building if the project was held up. He also said that it would be foolish for the Council to give up the money when no one knows what to do with the former school, which he called a “spec building.”

Chase said he recused himself from voting based on perceptions that he somehow had a conflict of interest given that he owns property near the school and the Metro-North Railroad station. Chase said he didn’t have to, but he opted to exit the process and mentioned frustration with “some extremism in town.”

“They go after people without having the fact, making innuendos and I’m just getting tired of it,” he said.

 

By Stratford Star on July 19, 2016

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