ESSEX— The auditorium at town hall is expected to remain closed to the public at least through the end of the month after a partial ceiling collapse that occurred over the weekend of Feb. 9-10. First Selectman Norman Needleman reported at Wednesday’s meeting of the board of selectmen that heating and ventilation ducts in the ceiling above the auditorium fell on to the floor below.
While the breakage occurred soon after the Feb. 8 blizzard, Nedleman said the problem is believed to have resulted from the age and condition of the duct work, and not directly related to the snowfall. But Needleman added the town is “very lucky,” the breakage occurred over a weekend, when the auditorium was not being used by the public. “There are a lot of hidden things in this building that are there and need to be resolved,” he said.
The historic town hall building was constructed in 1892, and was used as the town’s high school, named Pratt High School, until the Region 4 Valley Regional High School in Deep River opened in 1952. There were some renovations to the building in the mid-1970s, along with other limited renovations to sections of the building that were completed over the past six years.
Along with serving as the town’s election and referendum polling place, the auditorium is used for larger town meetings and public hearings, along with various community events and occasional blood drives. Needleman said a local contractor, Riggio & Sons Inc., is expected to complete repairs that would allow the auditorium to reopen for public use by early March.
In other business Wednesday, the selectmen approved an expenditure of $36,884 from a capital purchases sinking fund in the current town budget to purchase a new SUV-style Ford Explorer police utility vehicle. The new vehicle would replace the town’s oldest police cruiser, a 2001 model. Release of the monies from the sinking fund also requires approval from the board of finance.