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Ledyard - The Town Council voted unanimously Wednesday night in favor of investigating the feasibility of building a new
Ledyard Middle School in Ledyard Center.
The proposal, brought forward last month by Councilor Bill Saums, calls for the demolition of Ledyard Center School - at 60 years old, the town's oldest elementary facility - and for the elementary schools to be combined at Gales Ferry School and Gallup Hill School.
Saums originally mentioned the idea right before a proposal for a $45 million renovation was set to go before voters last May. That plan was scrapped, but Saums' idea was also dismissed because of suggestions that the Ledyard Center property couldn't accommodate the middle school and its parking and athletic fields.
Saums elaborated Wednesday night, saying that this plan would kill several birds with one stone: Eliminate the aging elementary school with its costly maintenance issues, address issues of declining enrollment by consolidating the town's elementary schools, and finally conclude the saga that has been attempting to bring the middle school up to date.
As an added bonus, Saums, who harbored reservations last year about razing Ledyard Center without a plan to replace it because of the traffic it draws to local businesses, said the addition of a middle school to the town's center could be an economic boon.
Councilor Mike France, chairman of the Finance Committee, expressed skepticism of any economic boost, saying that he cannot think of any other towns in the area that have a school in their town center - even the ones that thrive economically.
In Ledyard, he added, there are a scant number of places that could accommodate any development. Ledyard Center is one of them.
Mike Cherry, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, suggested that the plan is too complex to fully investigate before the May referendum - the target date for bringing forward a new middle school renovation plan.
"This is a very bold idea," he said. "It deserves full vetting and if we think we're gonna be done … for a May referendum, I think that's a mistake."
Town Council Chairman Linda Davis countered Cherry, suggesting that the town's various boards and committees give the plan a "broad look" to quickly determine whether it's too lofty an endeavor. Davis said that the town's own experts could "eyeball this and immediately know whether this economically would even be possible."
"I'd hate to drag this out eight months and say, 'Nope, this isn't going to work,' " she said, leaving the town back at square one with months wasted.
All nine councilors voted to hand over the responsibility of studying the proposal to the Municipal Building Committee.