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    Tuesday, December 06, 2022

    Stonington approves leases for West Broad Street School, boathouse park

    Stonington ― Residents voted 283-4 at Monday’s Town Meeting to approve an agreement in which St. Michael School will lease the former West Broad Street School for the next 15 years.

    In addition, residents voted 279-8 to approve a 25-year lease between the town and Stonington Community Rowing Inc. so it can build a boathouse on the proposed Mystic River Boathouse Park site on Route 27.

    The new St. Michael lease also includes an option for the school to renew for an additional 10 years. In May of 2020, the town and St. Michael agreed to a 3-year lease with an option to renew for an additional two years.

    Under terms of that lease, the school pays rent of $300 a month and St. Michael is responsible for operational costs such as heating, electricity, landscaping and snow removal as well as interior repairs. The town has remained responsible for the building exterior and systems such as the boiler, roof and fire suppression.

    Under the new lease, the $300-a-month payment will stay in effect, but St. Michael will be responsible for all costs, capital repairs and improvements for the 122-year-old building, of which the town said there are many.

    The uses of the town-owned building as a school cannot change during the term of the lease.

    The town previously stated that during the summers of 2020 and 2021, St. Michael School made interior improvements to the school such as repainting all classrooms and hallways on the first and second floors and the third-floor auditorium, removing asbestos floor tiles in seven classrooms and the main office and repairing and refurbishing the original maple floors underneath.

    During this past summer, the school made extensive roof, chimney and gutter repairs, as well as repairs to ceilings and walls in third floor classrooms.

    The town said the school has invested $365,000 in repairs as well as “countless volunteer hours on many of these projects.”

    The school now plans to undertake additional projects such as repointing, cleaning, and sealing all exterior brickwork, repainting exterior trim, renovating bathrooms and repairing or replacing windows.

    Four residents spoke in favor of the lease during the town meeting and cited the savings for the town, community benefits including contributing to a safe neighborhood and increased property values and preserving the historic character of the building.

    Boathouse lease moves project forward

    The boathouse lease states that all construction and improvements of the boathouse and rowing docks, at the 1.5-acre site just north of Mystic Seaport, will be paid for by the rowing center and that the town will take ownership of them once construction is complete.

    In exchange, the town will lease the property to the organization for $1 a year for the duration of the lease term, with an option to renew for another 25 years. The town will take responsibility for capital repairs, up to $25,000 annually, maintain the park property and building exteriors and provide the rowing center with the use of the park and access to the Mystic River during practices, races and other events.

    Since voters approved $2.2 million in bonding for the project in 2016, development of the park has faced delays due to the need for environmental cleanup, a requirement to preserve the home on the property and controversy over the boathouse design. The town is now moving forward with identifying and cleaning up environmental contamination on the property and creating the park.

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