About two years ago it became clear that Chalk Hill would most likely be closed as a school. The 2010-11 school year saw the 5th grade moved back to the elementary school buildings. So why did the town not start planning for what to do with the building after it was not a school?
A little over one year ago the decision to move the 6th grade out of Chalk Hill for the start of the 2011-12 school year was finalized. The building was clearly going to be turned back over to the town. So why did the town not start planning for what to do with the building after it was no longer a school?
One year ago there was a joint meeting of elected officials to discuss the future of Chalk Hill and get ideas on how to use the building. But then no real planning took place. There was no task force, no special committee, and no project to develop a business plan. Why not?
I’ll admit that there was a lot of talk, a lot of ideas, and a lot of people, business, and organizations that expressed interest in doing things in the building, but still no effort by the leadership of this town to build a real plan. Nothing was done to take all the possibilities and put them into some cohesive and logical organization.
Our First Selectman had at least seven months, from July 2011 to Feb 2012, prior to the presentation of his proposed 2012-13 budget, to come up with a plan. Instead, he started by saying keep it open, then changed his mind during the Town Council budget workshops, and then appeared to change his mind yet again. All this wavering because, in part at least, he had no real plan.
Throughout the first quarter of 2012, the Board of Finance tried repeatedly to get a proposed plan for the use of Chalk Hill. Instead what they got were a bunch of statements about ideas for the building, groups that had contacted the town, possible uses, and a request to keep it open for three years in the hope it could make money.
At the April CIFAP committee meeting there was a significant discussion about Chalk Hill, but no new news. There was no plan and no real useful information. However, the First Selectman did agree to report back at the June 12th CIFAP meeting with a business plan.
I was at that April CIFAP meeting, and yes, I was skeptical that the First Selectman could produce a real business plan in two months when nothing resembling a real plan had ever been made public over the preceding two years. Therefore I was not surprised when the First Selectman had no plan when he attended the June 12th CIFAP meeting.
However, I was very surprised that he had nothing – no plan document, no presentation, no single piece of paper, not even a “speech” about what he wanted to do. Instead he pointed to a local developer and said listen to his idea. Unfortunately, all we heard was much the same list of ideas of what could be done in the building – but again no real plan just more ideas.
So that means that the building is going to close, at least for the short term. Ironically, there is actually no plan that has been made public showing how the building will be closed. We don’t even know who the person is that will be in charge of shutting down Chalk Hill.
EMS is currently in Chalk Hill. What is the timeline to move them back to Jockey Hollow fire station? How much are the repairs to their space in the Jockey Hollow fire station going to cost and are they in the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1st? Is the repair work going out to bid and if so when? Who is going to do the move and at what cost to the town? How will the EMS operations and training programs be affected? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered in a plan.
The Parks & Recreation department office is now in Chalk Hill. Where are they going to move to? When will they move and at what cost? Is this in the budget? If Chalk Hill is not going to be used for programs, where will they be housed? Will there be new costs for running programs in other buildings or will some programs not be offered?
The plan for closing Chalk Hill also needs to address the physical shut down and ongoing monitoring of the building. Who will be responsible for this? Has the day care been notified that the building is being closed and if not, when is this going to take place?
These are just some of the questions that need to be addressed in a real plan. Whether we keep the building open, or close it down, we need a real plan. The plan needs to be a written document that everyone in town can have access to. The plan needs to identify who is in charge and it needs to provide all the facts, figures, timelines, issues, contingencies, and risks. A plan is not the same as a bunch of ideas thrown around at various meetings.
It is time we had a real plan. The citizens of Monroe deserve it.