Thank you for your interest in the Kearns Community Center project!
We receive many questions about the project and wanted to share our answers with you as best we can. If you have further questions after reading this as well as our proposal and budget, please feel free to contact us. We may even update this FAQ with your questions!
If you would like to see the finished 2016 Kearns School Report, which was commissioned by the town upon closing the school, you can see that here.
Why is Kearns School closed?
The Board of Education decided to move from five schools to four due to declining enrollment and budgetary considerations. As the oldest facility, Kearns School closed at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.
Would Granby reopen Kearns as a school?
Unlikely. According to school administrators, Kearns is not viable as a school in the future. It is simply more cost effective to build additions onto the other schools if needed; those properties have the land and the staff to handle any future expansion.
How has the Kearns facility been used since it was closed in 2016?
It has been vacant. The Town spends between $30-50,000 in maintenance costs annually. The Kearns School Study Committee estimated the total annual maintenance cost to be closer to $50,000.
Can the building and land be sold?
The property has certain issues that make it less attractive to a potential buyer. First, the property is mostly wetlands and unavailable for development. Second, there is no access to the building from Salmon Brook Road (and the traffic pattern can’t be changed to allow for it since the stoplight went in). Third, most businesses don’t need that much space (40,000 square feet). Fourth, the building, while in decent shape, requires a significant financial investment to get it up to code.
What does the Town get for leasing the property to a nonprofit?
The nonprofit Kearns Community Center has proposed revitalizing the 40,000 square foot space as a community center. We would lease the property for 10 years at $1 annually. At the end of ten years, we would have the option to purchase the property at a fair market value, which we plan to do. In the meantime, we would refurbish the building and landscaping, create a financially viable, regional community center, and maintain the property ourselves at no cost to the taxpayer.
Was the property assessed?
The assessment for Kearns as a school is $2.6 million. However, decommissioned schools typically sell for about one-quarter of their assessed value, meaning that the Town could expect to receive approximately $650,000 for this asset. Notably other area decommissioned schools have remained vacant for three to ten years and are still not sold or utilized.
What do other towns do with decommissioned school buildings?
Looking at our region, Windsor, Suffield, and Enfield all have school buildings that have sat empty for 3-10 years. Enfield does use the former Fermi High School as a small scale community center: adult education, polling place, and community pool use. The others, including Granby, are vacant, draining town resources, decreasing neighborhood property values, and not using a valuable asset.
Why is Granby considering a community center in the former Kearns School?
With the building empty, the Town did a study of possible uses and identified several needs: artist studio, GCTV studio and office space, conference rooms, adult education, youth services, robotics, etc. Building on this study, the Kearns Community Center steering committee spoke with area businesses, nonprofits, service organizations, schools, and individuals about how to best develop programming that area residents need and want without competing with existing services. To our knowledge, no other organization or group has come forward with a plan and budget for the 40,000 square foot space.
Will this plan increase my taxes?
The Board and leadership of the Kearns project emphatically do not want money from any of the towns in the service area (Granby, East Granby, Suffield, Windsor, Windsor Locks, Hartland, Barkhamsted, Simsbury, and Canton). We have no interest in raising our own taxes, much less those of our family, friends, and neighbors. We are deeply committed to creating a regional resource that is viable financially, responsive to both community and market needs, and creates economic vibrancy in our region.
How will a community center be viable?
Kearns Community Center programming is designed to be responsive to community needs, unique to the area, and fiscally self-sustaining. Once the center is open, we will have several revenue drivers: the adult day care program; the community cafe; the commercial and teaching kitchens; rentals of the performance space and conference rooms; and program fees for events, classes, and activities. We will also offer families and individuals varying membership levels. While membership isn’t necessary to use the center, it will afford access to special events, breaks on program fees, etc. Please review our current budget projections here.
How will you pay construction and start-up costs?
For the center to be fully operational, we need $2.75 million in construction and start-up money. We have been working with the region’s local governments, state representatives and senators, and the state Department for Economic and Community Development to obtain a one-time $2 million grant for this purpose. This grant will bring our tax dollars back to the region, revitalize an empty school, and create a community center with economic development, education, and social opportunities for over 120,000 residents.
We are working with a professional fundraiser to begin a capital campaign for the other $750,000. Several businesses, service organizations, foundations, and others have expressed interest in funding various rooms and programs in the center. We are confident that we can raise the funds needed to make the center fully operational.
What about the liability of a community center?
As a nonprofit, Kearns Community Center will carry its own insurance and have waivers for participants to sign, especially in higher risk areas like the woodshop. We are working with AIM insurance, a Granby company, to cover all of our insurance needs: Directors & Officers, general liability, fleet, property, and workers compensation.
How would you staff a community center?
The plan calls for nine full-time paid staff members, and a larger number of additional part-time staff. Their responsibilities will range from facility maintenance and volunteer management to fundraising and community engagement. Their proposed salaries and benefits are in line with current nonprofit standards.
Many of the spaces will be coordinated and run by partner nonprofits. For example, Resilience Grows Here, a veterans’ organization dedicated to mental health, will staff the veterans’ space, develop the programming, run the workshops and support groups, and refer veterans and their families to other resources within the center as appropriate (job training, entrepreneurship opportunities, STEM learning, etc). While Kearns staff would certainly work with RGH to provide optimal services, as the expert RGH would be responsible for the content and trained staff.
We’ll also be partnering with programs that provide job training for adults with disabilities, recognizing that as an unmet need in this region.
Will there be employment opportunities at the community center?
Yes! We are thrilled that so many people have inquired about employment with us. As we move forward in the process, we will keep the community posted about what opportunities may be available.
How does a community center benefit Granby or any of the surrounding towns?
Kearns Community Center would bring many benefits to the region:
- Develop programs which are responsive to community needs
- Produce high quality adult day care for seniors with dementia and social needs
- Centralize support services for families and seniors, including the durable medical closet, the food pantry, and the community gardens
- Create spaces for groups which often feel marginalized, including veterans, seniors, people with special needs, people with physical disabilities, families with young children, and more
- Develop the local economy, including job training, coworking space for entrepreneurs, youth employment, and commercial kitchens for rent
- Boost existing small businesses (restaurants, gas station, car wash, etc) by attracting people to Granby
- Attract new businesses to the area due to educated workforce and opportunities to partner with the center
- Create a vibrant space for arts performances
- Explore STEM through the woodshop, makerspace, and recording studios
- Build a teen center with study space, board gaming space, a media center, and communal hangout areas.
- Construct a large indoor park reminiscent of the best urban parks, which includes greenery, space to play, and places to mingle – drawing adults and children when it’s too hot, too cold, or too wet outside.
How is the Town of Granby government making this decision?
The Town has been considering the fate of the Kearns property since it closed in 2016. The Kearns Community Center steering committee based its initial proposal on the community needs mentioned in the first Kearns School Study Committee report. Since that time, the Board of Selectmen appointed a town advisory committee to study the community center proposal and budget. Over six months, they closely examined the information and asked for a professional nonprofit business consultant to audit the plan. TVA Consulting completed its report and the findings were incorporated into the plan and explained to the committee. Satisfied that the plan is financially viable, the committee unanimously endorsed the Kearns Community Center with a few recommendations – that no construction begin until enough money is in-hand to complete construction, that the lease be for 5 years at $1 annually with the option to renew for another 5 years, and that murals are preserved to the largest extent possible. We hope to purchase the building for a fair market price at some point in the future.
What happens now?
At this point, the BOS will hear from the advisory committee about its work and recommendations. The BOS will take some time to hear from the community and review all of the information before deciding what to do with this empty school building. No timeline for a decision has been announced.
Where do I find current versions of the community center proposal, budget, map, and audit?
Our website, www.kearnscommunitycenter.org, always has current information about the project with links to all of the resources listed above. We are always happy to answer questions as they arise and will incorporate them into our FAQ and thinking as quickly as we can. Any files uploaded to the town’s servers are not guaranteed to be current.