'Barely functioning' boiler forces New Milford school staff to work in coats, expedites office move

"This has been an obnoxious situation that has gone on too long," school board vice chair says

NEW MILFORD —With winter on the way and the boiler at New Milford Public Schools' Central Office failing, the Board of Education has expedited moving the Central Office from East Street to Sarah Noble Intermediate School.

“The boiler is barely functioning over at East Street — our staff is working in winter jackets in freezing conditions,” said education board Vice Chairperson Peter Helmus at the school board’s Nov. 15 meeting. “This is about time, it’s way overdue. This has been an obnoxious situation that has gone on too long.”

The Central Office is currently at 50 East St. in the historic Catherine Lillis Administrative Building.

The town has been considering changing the Lillis Administrative building’s function and used a grant in 2019 to have a consultant study the best way to use the building.

The town and the education board first looked into relocating the Central Office to Sarah Noble Intermediate School at 25 Sunny Valley Road. However, relocation costs were estimated at around $4 million, according to a relocation study presented to the education board by Silver/Petrucelli & Associates, an architectural company, in September of 2019.

Education Board Chairperson Wendy Faulenbach said the education board and the town worked together to design a plan that was less costly while serving the purposes of the administrative offices. While the plans are ongoing with costs estimated at $1.4 million, she said, “We continue to work on those numbers based on the need and further assessment regarding the finished product.”

However, Faulenbach said the uncertainty of the boiler’s functionality at the Lillis Administrative Building expedited the moving process. She said the education board was advised about the boiler’s situation this past October and that the Central Office has been moving its offices to Sarah Noble Intermediate School since the end of October.

“There’s a lot of things that need to be moved out of that building, so it’s going to take a while,” Faulenbach said, “and the board will be discussing the timeframe of the actual future of the building and when and how to turn it back to the town.”

The education board passed a motion at its Nov. 15 meeting to make a request of the Town Council and Board of Finance to use $100,000 from its capital reserve account to fund expenses not to exceed that amount for the Central Office’s move.

Faulenbach said the request for $100,000 is based on getting the school administration into Sarah Noble Intermediate School on an expedited basis and will be the beginning of “the most cost effective way we can proceed with this project.” 

“We are very cognizant of the health and welfare of our staff,” she said, “and with the boiler in a precarious situation, we move forward.”