Hours before the Board of Selectmen approved a $250,000 bonding resolution to tear it down, Public Works Director Fred Hurley was shoving the rotted front door of Danbury Hall open, revealing a sensory collision.
Within the long low brick structure that visually obstructs the front expanse of Fairfield Hills, Mr Hurley pointed to the crumbling plaster walls and collapsing ceilings amid beautiful two story high arch window, artfully crafted woodwork and marble.
By mid-October, he hopes to have salvaged as much valuable material as possible from the former hospital dorm. And then the rest will likely be gone forever.
The public works chief said the $250,000 appropriation that was endorsed on July 24 should cover the costs of taking down the building in hasty fashion, with about 60 percent of the bonding devoted to remediation.
If plans move with little or no delay, traffic on Wasserman Way may be able to gaze on autumn’s glory across the campus without the crumbling hulk of Danbury Hall to break the sightline.
“The visual impact will be immediate,” Mr Hurley said. “For anybody driving by, this will open up the entire vista all the way to Kent House. And it will sure show people there is continuing progress,” he added.
At the same time, passersby within the campus have seen closed roads along with town and utility workers busily installing streetscape features and electrical equipment.
That behind the scenes work, with its decorative street lights, benches and sidewalks, will visually define the main entrance area and lead visitors into the campus. Much of that work will be covered by grant money with the town’s matching contributions, Mr Hurley said.
In addition, utlity poles should be down by mid-August with all services switching to underground conduit by that time, also completing a secondary electrical connection that will now fully loop through the campus.
Mr Hurley said the advantage of completing the loop will be to provide two separate ways to feed power into Fairfield Hills if there is an interruption, instead of one.
In the meantime, he said a consultant is reviewing past environmental reports on Danbury Hall and mapping a hazardous materials abatement plan. The major culprit in this and other Fairfield Hills buildings is asbestos.
At the same time, Mr Hurley said the specifications for demolition are being readied so both can move forward between mid-August and early September.
“Once we have a vendor on board, this building should come down pretty quickly,” the public works chief said. “Possibly as soon as mid-September — that may be overly ambitious — certainly by mid-October. Worst case scenario, by November 1.”
He said the building held no special labs or processing operations, so he anticipates no “surprises” that could seriously hamper the demolition process.
The state Historic Commission has already approved the work, and a public notice on the planned demolition is complete. The federal Environmental Protection Agency now has to sign off a quality control plan because some of the expense is being underwritten by EPA grants.
That is expected to be done in the next few weeks.
Once Danbury Hall is down, Mr Hurley said the town will turn its attention to the neighborhood of vacant staff houses adjacent to Mile Hill Road. He said that demolition costs for those buildings might be reduced measurably, because the town’s fire departments have expressed interest in conducting various training and burning drills using the structures.
Mr Hurley said any drills involving burning part or all of the structures will provide extremely valuable “real world” training scenarios for firefighters, so their involvement presents a win-win situation for the town.