Plan for school KO’d by real estate panel

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
The future of the former Memorial Boulevard Middle School is still unknown.
Last week, the city’s Real Estate Committee rejected the proposal from the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, which was to move its offices to the building and to use the vacant space as an incubator for small, start up companies that focused on media technology, bio-science, and informational technology, to get up and running.
“The chamber is dismayed by the action of the City Real Estate Committee and sees their decision as being a poor outcome for the City and its residents,” said a statement from President and CEO of the chambers Michael Nicastro and chairman of the board for the chambers Tim Furey.
The chamber stated that at the workshop in November, city department heads described the building’s conditions as “dire,” even though it housed middle school students about five months ago.
The Real Estate Committee sent out a “Request for Proposal,” or RFP, for the school a few months ago. The chamber was the only response. Since then, several meetings and a work-session were held to get more information about what is needed in the school, what its flaws are, and how much renovations would cost the city.
The Real Estate Committee said it plans to go out to RFP again for the building, however the chamber said it has withdrawn its proposal and will not respond to any new RFP’s.
In a statement from the Real Estate Committee, it was said that another company was interested in the building for purchase, but the committee decided to hear out the chamber’s proposal. It also said that the committee was looking for proposals for lease and/or purchase, but the RFP stated “The City of Bristol intends to lease said property owned by the city.”
“The Real Estate Committee has often gone back out to RFP when we felt that we were not completely satisfied with the response. In this case, we felt that the financial impact to the taxpayers was more than we were willing to take a chance on and decided to reissue the RFP with the inclusion of purchase,” the statement from the Real Estate Committee said.
The committee also said the cost to the city, presented by the chamber, to keep the building running was misleading. The statement said the cost of $153,000 was a cost to the city when the building was in operation and the temperature of boilers was lowered after 3 p.m. According to the committee, to keep the building running at a minimum until it finds an occupant will cost the city $25,000 to $30,000.
“We feel that we needed to go back out to RFP to solicit a more detailed proposal that would include independent financing for the theater along with parking plans and ADA compliant plans that would bring it up to code for their use,” the committee’s statement said.
The chamber said it felt its proposal would accomplish growth to the city’s grand list, and help avoid continued budget challenges.
“Councilmen (Ken) Cockayne, (Kevin) Fuller, and (Eric) Carlson apparently think that an empty building, at risk of vandalism and burning in excess of $10,000 a month is a better idea,” the chamber statement said. “We disagree.”
The Real Estate Committee said the building still will be in use during another RFP process. Local groups will still be able to use the building and the theater while the committee continues to seek proposals for future use of the facility.
“We don’t feel we missed an opportunity,” the committee said, “we feel we are allowing opportunities for more responses to this ‘Gem’ and we are not putting a larger burden on the taxpayers of Bristol.”
City Councilor David Mills recently submitted a letter to the editor, which said in part, “By rejecting this proposal, the Real Estate Committee has missed an opportunity to make a lasting contribution to the city of Bristol.” He said he urges the committee to meet with the chamber again, as well as building and fire inspectors to discuss codes that need to be brought up-to-date, as well as make other arrangements to work out lease agreements that would protect both parties involved.
For the full statements from both the chamber and the Real Estate Committee, visit the Bristol Observer website at www.bristolobserver.com.