Published March 28. 2013 4:00AM
Stonington - The long-stalled effort to renovate two of the town's aging elementary schools took a small step forward Wednesday night.
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to send a request by the K-12 School Building Committee to spend up to $50,000 to develop a plan to renovate the schools to the Board of Finance for approval.
The finance board has opposed going forward with a project in the past, most recently in 2009 and 2011, because it did not want to add to the town's debt.
The building committee created a plan to renovate the elementary schools back in 2007.
Selectman George Crouse, who is on the building committee, said those plans now need to be updated to address security concerns.
"This is a starting point," Crouse said, adding that there is a group of residents who are very interested in seeing improvements at West Vine Street School.
The committee's preliminary plan calls for most of the work to be done at West Vine Street School, which would be renovated and expanded to also accommodate students from West Broad Street School.
While the 113-year-old West Broad Street School would close, St. Michael Church has indicated it would be interested in using it as a new home for its school.
Deans Mill School and the two middle schools would also be upgraded. The cost of the project will not be known until the plans are created. State reimbursement for school projects has now fallen to about 24 percent.
First Selectman Ed Haberek said Wednesday that he would like to see West Broad Street remain in operation as a school, something the St. Michael plan would do. He added there is not a market for residential development in the building, but town offices might be a possibility.
Earlier this year, the Board of Selectmen reactivated the building committee in light of the school board's continued push for the project and last year's discovery of major sprinkler-system problems at West Broad, which cost $90,000 to fix and threatened to delay the opening of school in August.