11-21-2018 Vanderlyn Community Center project moving forward under the Hartford District Library ac

Vanderlyn Community Center project moving forward under the Hartford District Library actions

Demolition of closed Red Arrow School in early spring could soon make way for Community Center/Library

By Jon Bisnett The Hartford Public Library Board is moving forward with plans to build a community center and library building on the site of the vacant Red Arrow Elementary School which could be demolished in early 2019. In May of 2017 the Tri-City Record reported the exciting news of a major donation of $1 million from the Vanderlyn Trust for the purpose of creating the Art and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center by repurposing the idled Red Arrow Elementary School building. But as they often say of “best laid plans,” several obstacles delayed and actually made the original plan impossible to accomplish with the constraints of the million-dollar budget. Now with a new plan and additional funding, the Hartford Library is moving forward and hopes to break ground in the spring.

LOOKING A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS… The Watervliet Public Works Department was hard at work Monday as they wrapped the trees along Main Street with Christmas lights recently purchased by City Manager Tyler Dotson with funds from the Downtown Development Authority. Work will continue as the city staff tries to complete the task before Small Business Saturday, Nov. 24. For more on the Saturday events… see Page 14. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


The City of Hartford initially looked at the project which at the time was thought to potentially house not only the Library, but also Senior Services, Hartford Adult Ed and perhaps even Pride Care Ambulance. After several months of delay waiting on architectural quotes that were nowhere near the projects budget, the commissioners came to the conclusion that remodeling and updating the building first built in 1959 would run easily more than double the generous donation from the Vanderlyns. With no resources to make up the lack of capital and even less desire to assume any debt, let alone serve as the building’s landlord the Commissioners made the decision to pass on the project. Commissioner John Burleson capped the discussion by saying, “I said it from the start that the City has no business trying to be a landlord.” Ultimately the Hartford Public Library took up the cause. Executive Director Stephanie Daniels candidly admits they have been out of room for the better part of five years, and despite looking at multiple expansion scenarios, the financial means were just not available. Library Staff and Board of Trustees then toured the Red Arrow building coming out with a very positive impression as to finding a solution to their needs for growth. The Library Board voted unanimously to send a letter of interest to Harford Public Schools Superintendent Hubbard in what Board Chairman James Jonatzke called “Resounding support” to pursue relocation.

8,000 sq. ft. building After reviewing the estimates already done by the city, it was obvious that the existing structure rehab would not be a viable option. This ultimately led to a project whereby the existing school would be demolished and in its place the library would construct a brand new 8,000 square foot building. Further conversation with the Vanderlyn Trust has increased its participation to a total commitment of now $1.3 million and a federal grant application hopes to add another $400,000 to the project coffers. Library Director Stephanie Daniels met with the Hartford School Board at a special meeting on Thursday, November 8 to bring all concerned up to speed on the most recent developments. Demolition bids and asbestos remediation costs have come in within the target range of $185,000. Survey work is in progress and Daniels has begun a title search on the property. Superintendent Hubbard shared a 5-point communiqué regarding a letter from the Library’s attorneys and School District’s law firm response. In casual discussion the board was amiable to all the points with nothing even close to any “deal breaker” in the lot. Hubbard indicated that he felt it would be realistic to get a final draft to the school board for approval at the December business meeting, perhaps even sooner.

Boards agree to details Since the evening of the special meeting the School Board and Library Board have met during their respective regular business sessions, each giving formal approval to a purchase agreement since amended to satisfy both parties concerns. The Library has also formally selected an architect from the South Bend area. KIL Architecture and Planning will run point on the project with creation of conceptual designs first on the to-do list. The Library is now in the process of vetting the demolition bids. Daniels hopes to get the demolition handled as soon as possible, paving the way for a groundbreaking in spring. While it may just be a trifle premature to spray-paint any golden shovels just yet, all indicators give the green light for the Art and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center to begin to take form sometime in mid to late 2019.

Tri-City Record Thanksgiving Turkey winners announced There were 17 winners in the annual Tri-City Record Thanksgiving free turkey drawing sponsored by area businesses. Approximately 400 turkey coupons were turned into these sponsoring businesses,