Groton talks to state about Education Center closing, weighs options on Pratt building,

Groton - Today is officially that last day that the Mystic Education center is open.

Most operations on the 100-acre campus have ceased, including use of the pool for Groton Parks and Recreation programs.

In July a letter from the State Department of Administrative Services informed the town's Parks and Recreation Department that the 100-acre campus is now considered surplus property.

More than 60 of those acres have already been turned over to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The Pratt building, which houses the pool that the recreation department used, and the rest of the buildings on the campus are expected to be put in dormancy until the state releases them for sale. The town would have the right of first refusal.

Town Manager Mark Oefinger and Town Councilor Harry Watson recently met with state officials, including Donald DeFronzo, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services.

"It was a good meeting," Oefinger told the council Tuesday. "They have completed their survey and are working on the appraisal of the property."

Oefinger said the DAS doesn't have the environmental reports on the buildings, which the town needs to assess the viability of taking ownership of the property.

The state will keep the buildings warm enough to prevent pipes from freezing over the winter, Oefinger told the council.

Town officials would like to see the Pratt building kept active, allowing some of the programming that was there to remain or return, especially the pool activities. It is the only pool available with therapeutic temperatures.

The building also has a gymnasium, bowling lanes, an exercise room and a theater. The swimming programs were shifted to the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, where the pool is maintained at a cooler temperature and is in use nearly 24 hours, seven days.

Oefinger said he would like to know the difference in costs between keeping the Pratt building heated for safety purposes and keeping it operational. He said he tried to encourage the state to keep the building running but was told that budget constraints made that a challenging proposition.

He said it is also important to determine whether there is any town interest in owning the Pratt building. To that end, he said, the commission urged him to stay in close contact with state legislators, Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, Rep. Elissa T. Wright, D-Noank, and Rep. Edward Moukawsher, D-Groton.

"By talking with the legislators, we can learn what's happening legislatively while the commissioners are doing their work," Oefinger said. "Even if we have no interest in it, there's no interest at the state level to do any legwork to determine what could be developed on the property. The land is zoned for single-family residential, and the town has regulations that address the reuse of institutional properties."

Oefinger said a meeting with the legislators should happen as soon as the town has a better assessment of the condition of the buildings.

c.potter@theday.com

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