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Waterford takes next step toward demolition of former school facility

Waterford - The Board of Selectmen approved the appropriation of $463,100 for the remediation and demolition of the former Cohanzie School on Tuesday.

Developers still haven't expressed interest in the site and the State Historic Preservation Office warned the town last November that the school would be demolished if a development proposal wasn't received.

The purpose of the demolition is to remove the liability associated with retaining the school building and improve options for the reuse of the property, the town's former planning director Tom Wagner wrote in a summary of the Capital Improvement Project description.

"A recent appraisal of the property indicated it was more valuable without the building," Wagner wrote. "We are still interested in a senior housing project or other institutional use as a buffer between the commercial activity on Route 85 and the residential areas along Kenyon and Dayton Roads. Something compatible with the softball field and firehouse across the street."

The former elementary school closed in 2008 when the town opened the new Quaker Hill Elementary School. It sits on 9 acres on Dayton Road off Route 85.

Estimated costs for removal of the underground fuel tanks, lead, asbestos and demolition of the building, according to the May 2011 grant application, are about $198,000 for remediation and $200,000 for demolition. The total cost for demolition and remediation is estimated around $463,100.

Remediation includes the removal and disposal of 6,000- and 8,000-gallon fuel tanks, the testing and removal of lead paint and the removal of asbestos. The extra costs for soil testing and removal are not included.

Demolition includes the oversight of an environmental consultant at $23,000 and a 10 percent contingency at $42,000. The town was awarded a $457,500 grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, but hasn't received the final paperwork, First Selectman Daniel Steward said Tuesday.

The town must "pre-fund" the grant in order to begin the process of demolishing the school, but before it's demolished, the historic elements of the building must be documented.

DECD and the town must conduct a professional, state-level photographic and narrative documentation of the school.

Waterford must also prepare an interpretive exhibit on the historic transition from one-room school houses to consolidated district schools, which began around 1911 with the Jordan School. The State Historic Preservation Office recommended that the Waterford Historical Society participate in the preparation of the exhibit, which may be displayed at the Town Hall, the Historical Society or another site mutually acceptable to both parties. The appropriation will be forwarded to the Board of Finance for review.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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