Wallingford looks to raze buildings, shuffle spaces allowing agency to expand programs

Wallingford looks to raze buildings, shuffle spaces allowing agency to expand programs

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WALLINGFORD — Demolishing dilapidated buildings and shuffling storage spaces would enable expanded programming at the Spanish Community of Wallingford, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said Monday.

The Town Council tonight is slated to discuss appropriating $528,000 to demolish the Civil Defense building and former Choate Rosemary Hall boathouse, both on Washington Street, and the old Wooding Construction Co. building behind the police station on North Main Street.

Demolishing the 5,631-square-foot, two-story Wooding building would allow police to utilize the building’s footprint for parking and move equipment out of SCOW’s building and into a recently completed storage shed.

Morton Buildings Inc., a company based in Westfield, Massachusetts, completed the 3,600-square-foot police storage building last week, Police Chief William Wright said Monday.

SCOW, 284 Washington St., is a 8,678-square-foot, one-story building.

Currently, the police department uses a portion of the rear part of the SCOW building to store traffic signs and other traffic control equipment, such as sign poles and sawhorses, Wright said.

SCOW houses the STEM Academy, a partnership between SCOW and the Youth And Social Services department, with support from the Wallingford Rotary Club and the Connecticut Education Association, according to SCOW’s website. The academy offers programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“SCOW is excited with the idea of expanding the space to offer more afterschool programs to serve children and youth of all ages,” said Adriana Rodriguez, SCOW interim executive director.

“We are very proud of our partnership with CT STEM Academy and all the opportunities that it brings not only to the members of the Hispanic community, but to the community as a whole” she said.

Located on the same parcel as SCOW is the former Civil Defense building, 302 Washington Ave., which Dickinson wants to demolish.

Dickinson said the building’s roof was damaged during heavy snowfall about a year ago. He proposes using $253,791 in insurance money toward demolition.

The 4,686-square-foot building has two stories and an unfinished basement, but is not being maintained.

“It is sealed up and not safe,” Dickinson said, adding that beyond the structural damage, the building has no elevator and is not ADA-compliant.

The town acquired the old Choate boathouse, 320 Washington St., in June 2015 when the town gave a portion of Beaumont Avenue to Choate in exchange for the 3,840-square-foot boathouse and two-acre property.

“It’s unusable,” Dickinson said, “and as it sits and deteriorates, it’s an eyesore, and we don’t like to encourage unused buildings. They become subject to vandalism and other problems.”

Austin Meeks, who graduated from Choate in 1916 and from Yale University in 1920, was the crew coach when the boathouse was constructed in 1937, when Community Lake still existed.

Austin Meeks’ son, 77-year-old Jonathan Meeks, currently lives in Wardsboro, Vermont.

“It was very nice,” Meeks said, “finished with nice floors and walls.”

There was an office, locker room and showers, he said, and even a cottage for caretaker Domonic DeBaise, whom the students called “Skipper.” 

The racing shells were stored on racks and arranged pointing toward Community Lake, he said. His father worked on boats that needed fixing in a downstairs workshop.

When the Community Lake dam broke and the lake dissipated in 1979, Choate relocated its crew program.

“The boathouse was odd sitting there,” Meeks said, “like a ship that had gone down.”

He’s seeking signage, flags or other souvenirs from the boathouse, which eventually was named after his father.



Twitter: @LCTakores