LITCHFIELD – After hearing mixed reactions from residents, selectmen put a proposal to swap Town Hall for Griffin Memorial School on the back burner.
The board unanimously decided Monday not to swap the building and 20-acre property with the school district for GMS and its surrounding land.
Selectmen, however, said that if the School Board was interested in waiting a year, they would conduct a feasibility study.
The School Board agreed later the same evening to go forward preparing plans for a second elementary school on the property between GMS and Litchfield Middle School.
Some board members said another elementary school is long overdue.
“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the kids to put off another year on a what-if,” School Board member Cindy Couture said.
About 20 people attended a community forum to comment on the proposal. It drew mixed reaction, with some residents saying the Town Hall should stay as it is.
Some residents questioned whether a school could be built on the same property with Town Hall remaining the same.
The land by Town Hall is better suited for building a school because it is drier that the school-owned land, resident__Susan Seabrook said.
“If there’s a parcel up here that’s useable, why can’t the two boards work together?” she asked, adding later, “I feel education is of prime importance. I’m not sure the land at GMS is the best.”
One problem with that scenario is the close proximity of the school to the police station, Police Chief Tom Iverson said.
“You’re bringing people you don’t want associating with kids onto the property,” Selectman Frank Byron said.
Selectmen said if they took over GMS, the town would have to pay to renovate the building, and the current humidity problems in the building would make it problematic to relocate some departments such as the library.
The library is currently on Route 3A. However, the town’s master plan shows the 20 acres where Town Hall is located as the site of the library and possibly a public safety complex with the police and fire.
“My reaction is, don’t do it,” resident Don Ferren said. “You have a good start here as a town center. Let’s start working toward it.”