Town pursues purchase of St. Jude School property, eyes community center

St. Jude Catholic Church, 707 Monroe Turnpike, had operated a school on its property for decades before closing it in 2018.

MONROE, CT — First Selectman Ken Kellogg announced today that he has been working with St. Jude Parish and the Diocese of Bridgeport on a plan for the town to purchase the former St. Jude school property, which Kellogg says is a prime opportunity for the creation of a Monroe Community Center.

Kellogg said a memorandum of understanding (MOU) will be presented to the Town Council for a vote at their next meeting on May 23. The MOU outlines the preliminary terms of the purchase, all of which remain subject to the town’s standard approval procedures.

Under the terms of the MOU, the town’s final purchase price would not exceed $2.3 million. St. Jude Parish would continue to have access to the parking lot and, for a period of time, access to certain areas of the building.

“This MOU will confirm the desire of both parties, while allowing us to conduct additional due diligence, as we work towards the formation of a final and more detailed purchase agreement,” said Kellogg. “Ultimately, the purchase will absolutely require further approvals from Town Council, the Board of Finance, and ultimately at a Town Meeting as required by Town Charter.”

While the town was conducting a long-term space needs assessment and feasibility study, the potential for the purchase of the school building was explored, according to Kellogg. The draft report of that study, conducted by DeCarlo & Doll, Inc., concluded that while the school building is older construction, the potential benefits to the town are significant, and that its acquisition would be a rare opportunity to substantially add to the Town Hall campus.

Beyond community center programming, certain municipal functions could eventually migrate to that location, opening up much-needed space at Town Hall, Kellogg said.

While the former Chalk Hill School was also evaluated in that plan, DeCarlo & Doll confirmed use of that building would cost taxpayers over $10 million, but most importantly, full use of that space was most challenging due to it being on a school campus, the first selectman said.

“I am very sensitive to the fact that any municipal use of Chalk Hill needs to be consistent with the residential area as well as that of a school campus setting with specific security concerns,” Kellogg said. “We have explored various options for that building, including use by various outside organizations, however none come close to full occupancy and supporting the costs.”

Kellogg said that while the transformation into a new Community Center adjacent to Town Hall and the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library is a long-term vision, the Town would realize an immediate benefit by enabling increased programs and services, primarily through the Parks & Recreation Department.

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