…Town Governments do not
build flourishing communities,
the residents do
Opportunity Knocks for Townies:
May 2014: The Suffield Board of Finance appoints an adhoc committee, then approves funding for a business plan to be prepared.
In the course of their duty, funding of the Community Center plan was eventually approved and put forward to voters.
…Will Residents answer the call?
Approximately 150 residents showed up on a blustery winter evening to here about the proposal. Patrick McMahon; the Director of Ecnomic Development, made a presentation in favor of taking advantage of the opportunity to create
a Community Cultural Center. "It will make the town center a more vibrant place, and attract new families here…"
The May 14, 2013 Suffield Speaks workshop allows public opinion to be gauged.
The May 14, 2013 Suffield Speaks workshop allows public opinion to be gauged.
May 2013 : The Town of Suffield hired an professional independent facilitator to moderate a workshop meeting aptly titled
"Suffield Speaks." Residents were guided through an organized format of planned topic discussion. Sharing opinions,
voicing ideas, and concerns led to making a final tally of the resulting votes into a group consensus. This report was
presented to the Board of Selectmen on June 19, 2013 at their regular scheduled meeting.
"I didn't know what to expect, but it was very well organized, and now I feel like what I had to say finally means something…"
said long time Suffield resident Margaret Matuck. Citizens sat in groups discussing several options concerning what to do with the Bridge Street School building and property. As the facilitator made the presentation, and explained how the process
of reaching a consensus worked, each group and each individual had the opportunity to register their opinions.
istorically, civic buildings are a source of pride, and a reflection of our values.
In many cases, architects
and builders are revered for aesthetic enhancements that their designs contribute to a community. The form and function give buildings and their surroundings dignity, and we have respect for how they serve us. The story of Bridge Street School in Suffield is one that abruptly changed, from that of useful and respected, to that of one disregarded and neglected. At the time of it's closing as as school in 2004, there were many who immediately took up concern for preserving and repurposing it with continued esteem for it's value. Leadership that lacks vision for understanding that value has prevailed. In August of 2012 residents found themselves challenged to prevent the sale of this property. Divesting itself of this Town Center property was overwhelmingly voted down. The subsequent Suffield Speaks workshop meeting was sanctioned by the town at the diligent request of Suffield residents, who believe organized citizen action is what is now needed. The results of the community workshop were apparent immediately, and re-affirmed the prior results from the Town meeting in favor of Not selling the property, and also for Restoring and repurposing the former school building for Town use.
To see the official results of the "Suffield Speaks" workshop meeting, please click pn the sub menu above under the tab "Press - Official Reports"
This chance to enhance Suffield is
the right place at the right time
First Selectman McAnaney offers no options other than Selling the building and property
"…Suffield residents must decide if they want to be in the business of providing community services."
Building a Proposal
By Ray Pioggia
By Janet Banks
When it comes to what the residents of town would like to see accomplished for the use of the former Bridge Street School there's no shortage of ideas. In the hundreds of the discussions I've had, most all of them include some form of Community Center.
I've followed up with looking at what
scores of other Towns have done,
locally and around the country. In every case there's vibrance and community enrichment. By design, they have established a home where uplifting activities like health, art, sports, for all ages can be easily accessed.
The all-encompassing phrase which describes the drive and need for enrichment and happiness in our lives is Self Expression. As an alternate to the constant distractions of "screens" –that is TV, computer, phones,
etc. There is a place to play, learn, create,
and socialize around all the things that feel good when energy is released by expressing it!
During a typical day at Bridge Street School back when it was full of youngsters, it appeared just as one would expect: free play, gym class, story time, art, science, arithmetic, dance and music.
What was the common denominator for the action everyday? Everything
culminated into acts of self expression.
Among all the likes and dislikes of the curriculum there was a favorite means
of self expression for everyone.
There is no time in our life span where the need to feel fulfilled ends. The pursuit for enjoyment is facilitated by community. Shared expression is the ultimate in fun, and satisfaction!
The place once known as Bridge Street School, with it's lush open park, was always intended to serve this community to this end.
Suffield Resident Petition
What’s Next for Bridge Street School?
Bridge Street School and its surrounding property are significant town assets that are available for the use and benefit of Suffield citizens. The property should be preserved and utilized in a productive way and incorporated into the existing town center in a manner that will serve the town for generations.
We are proud of our heritage and determined to create a high quality of life for all our citizens. We must not squander or sell this town treasure- it represents the last remaining vestige of Suffield's historic town center.
This property can serve multiple purposes for our town. Possibilities could include: space for the use of numerous community activities and meetings. The additional land could be utilized as an attractive and useful park. Repurposing the site would enhance the appearance and vitality of the town center.
I am a Suffield resident, and agree that our town should move forward with a plan to use the Bridge St. School property for the use and benefit of the town.
After residents rejected the 2012 proposal to divest itself of land held by the
town for over three centuries, concerned citizens circulated the following
petition in order to save the Town center village district from being sold off.
What's on the table now…
The ad hoc committee, consising of town officials and volunteer residents worked hard to put together a business plan complete with facts & figures.
Now the decision over Suffield having it's own community center for cultural events and recreational activities goes to Town residents. The prospect of having our own facility, and not having to travel to neighboring towns has gained mass support. Below, are some architectural renderings of how the exisisting building will be refit into a new facility with a full size gym, including showers and lockers, and ADA compliant public access.
…A self sustaining, full sized recreation and cultural center - with athletic field, playground, gym, and town offices to be available daily for
"Garden level view" Expense was not spared in the 1924 construction, of No.1 red brick, ceramic interior wall supports, slate roof, and hardwood floors. A hand written note on a structural survey for a 1960's remodeling stated "This building was made to last a thousand years." This landmark facade will remain intact with the new updated building additions.
Complete details of the proposed plan are available by visiting the Bridge Street Community Center website.
( click on the link below )
Depicting two views of the proposed new additions, illustrate the potential for upgrading the site in keeping with other fine hallmark buildings in Suffield Town Center, while also enhancing the quality of life with it's functions
Scheduled Public Forums:
Thursday, April 2, 2015, 7:00 PM
Saturday, April 11, 2015, 1:00 PM
Both will be at Suffield Middle School
For more details on this exciting project click on this link:
Photographed from atop the "jungle gym" this view faces Southeast showing the rear of the of the former school building, and the 2.43 acre athletic field. While the grounds have been kept up, little money had been allocated for building maintenance or upkeep of the structure over the last ten years. The windows were covered with insulating material and plastic to minimize heat loss. The interior was heated in winter to approximately 45 degrees F – just enough to preserve structural integrity.
In November of 2011 the original boiler gave out. Alarmed by this, citizens made requests for action to be taken including a proposal, and quote for a temporary emergency heat source. These requests were dismissed throughout the winter of 2012 based on a decision made in Town Hall to "Sell the building and pass the burden of cost on to someone else." In September of 2012, Town residents overwhelmingly voted down a plan to sell the property to commercial developers. As of December 2013, Heat has been restored to the building.
A Simple Arithmetic Problem!
• All volunteer effort has been employed to
support community awareness •
Progress update : September 2013 Town officials file a claim with our Town insurance company and received $66,000. to cover the loss of the heating system in the building. Facing the third winter season of not having proper climate control; essential to protect structural integrity, a temporary heating system is installed for the sum of $24,900. including the cost for fuel during the cold season. The structure which had been heated in winter for over 85 years sustained only moderate damage. Other issues to prevent water infiltration due to necessary repairs of the roof flashing, gutters and drain pipes have since been addressed. The Board of Finance approved funding for these repairs in order to curb the progression of water damage pending further study on re-purposing the building into a Community Center for recreational and cultural activities.
an Interview with John G. Smith,
former Town Selectman and community activist
BSS.com: The proposal to sell the Bridge Street School property for building apartments and retail space was defeated, but the question remains: "How can we make the best use of this building and property?"
JGS: A good place to start would be for the residents to actively participate. I think that setting up this web site is a great way to engage people. It's a way to let the residents of Town know that they have an organized way to get involved.
BSS.com: The handful of us that volunteer our time on this would be very encouraged by that.
JGS: The folks who felt strongly enough about this to vote no for giving up ownership of Bridge Street School, and the land now have a opportunity to decide on what use to make of it.
BSS.com: That's just what we have in mind – How about starting with your comments?
JGS: First I want to say that I have talked to people whose families have been here for generations, and others that are transplants. The heritage aspect of the town matters to residents in many different ways. Something useful can be done with the building. Incorporating it back into community use makes total practical sense and preserves town heritage.
…continued on the "Who we are." page.
A largesmall scale success story
To view words and pictures about the poignant documentary
"I Remember Bridge Street School"
please click on: Documentary • Commentary above.
The "Throw Away Society"
To read this piece, click on
Documentary • Commentary in the menu above and scroll down the page.
Also see: "Appreciation for Real Life Stories"
-click on the sub-menu under Documentary • Commentary
At the time of the School closing…
In 2005 a formal bi-partisan committee was appointed to make a recommendation on it's disposition.
Preserving and maintaining the building for future use was the finding. Another official study in 2013 titled
"Suffield Speaks" also made that same finding.
Presently an official ad hoc committee has crafted a plan that will serve families and individuals in perpetuity.
Studies of what other Towns have invested in for facilities like this have proven that it will become much more than self sustaining. Opposing viewpoints claim that sacrificing this Town Center Property for commercial development will provide tax based income. Residents have repeatedly called to retain ownership, and preserve the integrity of it's historical character.
Building a stronger community that meets the needs for growing and thriving; with complete pubic services, is where true long term economiic development happens.
The Board of Finance has agreed to put together a funding proposal for this project. After being presented to the public at two upcoming informational Town meetings, it is then expected to go to a Town referendum vote.
At one time the "Great Room" had a stage and screen for showing movies
and staging other shows. The potential for using this space now for activities such as yoga, dance, art exhibitions, musical events, etc., is limitless.
"Neat 'n clean" as it appeared just weeks before the schools' closing in June 2004, these two views are of the large interior "auditorium" utilized as a cafeteria and indoor event gathering area. A drop ceiling was added for practical reasons but it conceals graceful iron trusses rising up to the peak. The interior walls jutting into the great room were later added to house the school library.
photos © Copyright 1999–2014 Ray Pioggia