Sunday, November 28, 2021
HomeEducationHESLetter to the Editor: Vote "Yes" To Purchase Haddam Elementary School

Letter to the Editor: Vote “Yes” To Purchase Haddam Elementary School

The views stated here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of this newspaper.

Haddam and Killingworth voters will return to the polls on June 4, 2019 to vote on a revised RSD 17 school budget. However, Haddam voters will also have a second item on their ballots:

“Question #2 is a yes or no vote on whether Haddam should purchase the Haddam Elementary School and the surrounding 10 acres from RSD#17 for the price of $450,000 to be paid in three equal annual installments starting on July 1, 2020.”

This is an enormously consequential vote that will have profound implications on Higganum Center and all of Haddam in the coming years and decades. I strongly urge my fellow townspeople in Haddam to vote “yes” to purchase Haddam Elementary School.

The reasons to purchase HES include:

  • Haddam’s Town Planner, Bill Warner, has studied the land around HES and considered various uses for the property. He believes that the property could support a public septic system that could serve current and future businesses in Higganum Center, for a fraction of the cost of a public sewer. This public septic system could spur much needed economic growth and vitality in Higganum. If the property is sold to a developer or other private company, Haddam will lose access to this critical land use.
  • Haddam voters, not our regional school board, are best equipped to decide the future of Haddam Elementary School.
    1. For example, Haddam voters and leadership could decide to sell the property to a developer and reap all the profits from that sale (instead of having to share it with Killingworth as it will if the BOE sells it), while still maintaining access to the land for a public septic system.
    2. Or Haddam could instead choose to lease the property to various businesses, even to a school, while gathering lease payments and maintaining access to the property for current and future use.
    3. Haddam voters could also decide to utilize the property, or portions of the property, for various critical town functions. These uses could include town offices, space for Haddam Little League, a much-needed daycare, a museum or any number of creative uses that have not yet been envisioned.
  • Haddam residents would retain full access to Swan Hill from the town center, as well as the parking lot that is so often used for events on the town green, while also maintaining access to the playgrounds and basketball courts that are used by Haddam residents all summer and on weekends year-round.
  • Finally, there are real and viable concerns that future growth in Haddam may require additional space for students. If Haddam retains ownership of the property, it can again be used as a school for a fraction of the cost that would be required for new school construction.

A video of the town meeting with Bill Warner’s presentation on why Haddam should buy HES can be found here: https://www.wevideo.com/hub#media/ci/1370463730

While there will be costs to Haddam in purchasing this property– $150,000 per year for three years– for all these reasons listed above, and many more, it’s critical that Haddam voters vote “yes” to purchase Haddam Elementary and really “Save HES.”

Peter Baird
Haddam, CT

6 COMMENTS

  1. I’m voting “YES” for all the reasons stated above! Thank you, Peter, for getting the word out again. I hope fellow taxpayers will realize the tremendous value in this purchase and vote YES on Tuesday.

  2. The Bill Warner presentation is well worth watching and makes a compelling case for the town to follow the advice of P and Z and acquire this most valuable property. I entirely agree with the reasons stated in Peter Baird’s letter and would add that the money thus paid for the school can be viewed as money we are mostly paying (58% worth) to ourselves as a member of the regional school district. It would be a colossal mistake not to acquire this property.

  3. I agree with a yes vote but we need to be realistic – this is not a panacea and voters shouldn’t expect one. The septic system possibility is very positive. However the ongoing cost prior to a sale or other use will be utilities, maintenance, insurance, etc. and will be sizable – I’d guess $100,000 / year at least. Selling it for any significant profit seems very questionable after the experience RSD had trying to sell it. And note that all the other use options listed above are “ORs” – not “ANDs”. If you sell it or remodel it for office space (whatever) it is not going to be a school again.

    Better that Haddam control it than RSD-17 but I would caution voters to be sure they are realistic in their expectations.

    • The Bill Warner presentation states it costs about $92,400 for region 17 to maintain the building. At 50%, for a vacant building, costs would be about $46,2000. Harlan, can you explain where you get the at least $100,000 a year number. Is Bill Warner’s numbers not accurate?

      • Bill’s presentation was excellent. However on the cost of ‘operating’ a vacant building, his $92,400 basically included just 50% of the utilities (electric and oil) and a very small allowance for water and septic. The mechanical systems will all have to be maintained, there will be insurance, snow plowing, lawn mowing, etc if the building is to be kept presentable. Significant roof repairs are on the BoE’s schedule for not too many years out. I do not claim to have any accurate cost estimate and did not mean to imply that, but paying for just 50% of only the current electric and oil costs can’t possibly keep the building in good repair for future use.

        • Harlan, Bill’s presentation covers more than electricity and oil. It covers septic pumping and well maintenance. You mentioned $100,000 a year “at least”. If plowing, mowing and insurance costs more than $54,000 a year for HES, we better review our service contracts.

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