Monday, June 27, 2011

Deferred Maintenance Strikes Again

In the center of our little town, we have an old brick high school building built in 1931.  In a story similar to many communities, the town outgrew the high school and in 1961, a new high school was built.  The old school was used by elementary school students until 1987.  It has been the town community center in the time since.  We have a wonderful recreation program that uses the old gym, the auditorium is used for community programs, and there are some town offices in the building as well.  

Unfortunately, the school is still owned by the school system who has deferred maintenance over the years.  Today, among other things, the roof leaks and has damaged the old wooden gym floors to a point that they need to be fixed before the floors become a safety hazard.  The school system wants to sell the school to the town rather than fix the problems.  The town isn't sure they want to take on the liability of a building that they need to spend a minimum of $150,000 on just to get the roof and gym floors fixed.  

The town estimates it will cost $2.5 million to fully renovate it.  That may be an inflated number to spin favor away from the building or it may be on target.  Due to this dollar figure, town council is now discussing the idea of demolishing a historic brick building that anchors one end of town, contributes to the scenic view of the duck pond area, and has lasted for 80 years and will easily last another 80 if  properly maintained.  Their plan?  Build a nondescript "shell building" for $1.5 million that might last for 30 years if they're lucky to replace the spaces the recreation program will lose if the building is demolished.  

In other words, they have a plan to replace character with mediocrity, and long-term investment with short-term consumption.  Demolition is permanent.  And it's not free. The tangible costs of removing debris and preparing the site for new construction and the intangible costs caused by the changes to the fabric of the community are both mighty expensive in a small town struggling to maintain its unique identity.


  1. Too bad they can't work on the roof and gym floors first. Then work on the rest of the building as needed in installments. But I suppose if they start refurbishing they will have to meet a bunch of codes (like handicap accessibility, maybe sprinkler systems) that add up in a hurry. Too bad because it is a pretty building and "they don't make them like they used to".

  2. It is such a shame when the City's don't take care of our historical buildings! When kept up they add so much to the history of a town......