City leaders said Monday the only want to keep the former South Chippens School in order to knock it down.
There doesn’t appear to be much support for preserving the 1936 schoolhouse next door to the Hill Street firehouse.
On a tour of the building, city councilors and Board of Finance members said they don’t see much historical value and only want to keep the place so that it can be razed whenever the planned firehouse expansion takes place.
“I think there’s a need to retain the property,” Mayor Art Ward said. He said he wants it to be available for the fire department’s use.
When the new 900-student school is constructed down the street, Ward said, the expanded firehouse will be necessary.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne said he doesn’t want the city to spend money on upkeep if it’s going to tear the building down.
No formal decision on the building’s fate has been made, but officials gave little indication they see merit in preserving the 165 Hill St. structure.
John Smith, finance board member, said he was assistant superintendent when the school closed in 1973. At the time, it was used for special education, he said.
“Before that, it was a two-room schoolhouse,” Smith said, that opened in 1936 on a site used for schools since 1755.
“It’s not even 100 years old,” city Councilor Cliff Block said.
“The historical significance is out the window,” Ward said. “I don’t think we should put a lot of money in it.”
“We can use it for cold storage in the meantime,” Cockayne said.
Public Works Director Walter Veselka said it’s his job to take care of all the city’s building unless there’s a deliberate choice made not to maintain it.
City department heads said they are willing to do whatever the policy makers decide, including whether to pay about $6,000 annually to keep heating the structure a bit.
“I can’t ignore it. I just need a conscious decision. It can’t be a decision by no decision,” Veselka said.
“If I’m going to be responsible for it, I’m going to need a budget to go along with it,” Fire Chief Jon Pose said.
Pose said his department can get by without using it for storage. He said he could also share the space with other departments, if any are interested.
The upper floor of the old brick schoolhouse has a checkerboard tile floor, quite worn, and two large rooms separated by a small central office. Each of the larger rooms has a tiny office.
There are a few bathrooms that are still working.
The stairs are wooden, with a wooden banister. The basement may have been used as a gymnasium, with a fireplace on one end. An old slate chalkboard still hangs on the wall.
The plaster walls have some flaws and some paint is peeling on the basement walls.
There are many large windows throughout the building that appear to be original, giving it a light and airy feeling – at least on a nice autumn afternoon.
The structure has been vacant since the nonprofit CW Resources moved out a year and a half ago for new quarters on Broad Street. It had been paying $1 a year to use the building since 1974.
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