Repairs to Hamilton Ave School Parking Garage Needed; St. Roch Church Seeks Use of Parking Deck & Field for 2023 Feast

During the BET Budget Committee hearings last week there was mention of the school district “absorbing” $50,000 to assess needed repairs on the Hamilton Avenue School parking garage.

Through director of communications Jonathan Supranowitz, the district confirmed that the parking structure at Hamilton Avenue is in need of renovations:

“The perimeter caulk joints have pulled away, the concrete at the area drains on the upper deck has delaminated and failed, water pours thru open joints when it rains which causes the delamination and failure of steel reinforcement to accelerate. More information and plan will be determined after the assessment is completed.”

Asked when the repairs will be done, they replied that they will move forward with repairs after they receive results of the engineering report.

“The presently approved funds are for the preliminary review/inspection of the structure. Any additional funds may/will be used to address immediate issues within the funds range. Additional repairs identified from the study will be included in a future, and as of yet, non funded project.”

Lastly they said the garage is currently safe to use, and that if the garage was deemed unsafe it would have been closed already.

“However, we will wait to see the results of the engineering report to make a determination for the next steps,” they added.

The Thursday, March 16 BOE meeting agenda features discussion about the use of the school field for the St. Roch’s Church annual feast again in August 2023.

The 2023 chair of the feast is Frank Cortese, a resident whose company is New England Total Energy. Preparations for the feast are underway and the volunteer roster includes Paul Cappiali for the multi-church raffle, and First Selectman Fred Camillo for “Municipal coordination.”

Camillo said on Thursday that role entails advising the committee on process, not pulling any permits. Initially the church website listed him in charge of “Permits and Municipality Coordination.” It was updated to say “Municipality Coordinator.”

The church bulletin notes that the St. Roch Feast will have a new amusement ride vendor, Commerford & Sons out of Goshen, CT.

“Commerford & Sons is a highly respected vendor that has been operating in Connecticut for over 40 years, it was founded by Robert W. Commerford and is now run by his son Tim,” the church said in their bulletin.

The BOE meeting agenda docuument cover sheet for item 10B New England Total Landscaping to be donating an irrigation system for the Hamilton Avenue School Field Documentation to Follow.”

The meeting materials include a letter from St. Roch Church pastor Father Carl McIntosh formally requesting use of the field and parking deck. (See below).

The meeting materials also include a draft of a partnership agreement between the church and the district to be signed by Father McIntosh and BOE chair Joe Kelly.

Also it says the church will “utilize property access points determined acceptable through coordination with GPS Facilities, understanding that a study of the Parking Deck condition is underway.”

The draft agreement also talks about event security, hiring Greenwich Police, and enforcing a no alcohol policy.

It says the church will donate another 12-month landscaping service agreement, get an event permit from Parks and Recreation, and protect the newly installed basketball court.

The draft agreement notes that St. Roch’s Church and their community partners have donated $15,000 to the Hamilton Avenue School PTA to provide enrichment for the children.

Last year, about this time there was a controversy among the BOE members about whether to permit the St. Roch Feast to hold their event on the public school’s grounds.

It was noted that a BOE file dating back to 2009 from then schools superintendent Betty Sternberg said under no circumstances should the field accommodate carnival rides.

Enjoying the Scrambler on Aug 12, 2017 at the St. Roch Festival. Photo: Leslie Yager
St Roch Feast held the carnival on church property in the years they didn’t have access to Ham Ave School field. Pictured: The Scrambler on the corner of Ham Ave and Stone Ave. Aug 12, 2017. Photo: Leslie Yager

The church had done so for a century, but during a prolonged hiatus during the school’s rebuild and renovation of its field and installation of geothermal wells, they held the feast without use of the school’s field.

During that hiatus, the road closure allowed use of the roadway on St. Roch Ave, the field on the other side of Hamilton Ave by Stone Ave that the church also owns, as well as the entire church campus.

At a June 2022 BOE meeting Parks & Rec director Joe Siciliano advised against approving the use of the field for the carnival. He explained that the grass was still getting established after a $450,000 restoration and he was concerned about the wells.

Siciliano also said he had concerns that parking trucks on the field could damage the property.

The BOE members were bombarded by hundreds of emails.

In July the BOE voted to approve the use of the field for the feast and carnival, but there was a split among board members.

“Our job is to preserve our assets, and preserved our processes and worry about what precedents we’re setting for future groups,” said Democrat Christina Downey, who voted against approving the use of the field for the four day feast.

“I’m concerned we’re setting a precedent for people who don’t like answers to questions to bombard us with emails, and not provide us with a plan or recommendation,” Downey said. “I’m just expressing my frustration that we received no documents other than a bunch of emails. I feel it’s kind of like a gun put to our heads because there’s a carnival in a couple weeks and we have to make a decision.”

When the other two Democrats abstained the vote became a de facto approval.

The feast was a lot of fun, of course, and the raffle was a success, raising funds for the church. (See the winner list here).

Unfortunately, last summer, many will remember that there was a prolonged drought and there was a controversy about the condition of the field after the feast.

The Board of Education released two photos of the Hamilton Avenue School field taken from a camera at the school. One was from Aug 8, which was before the St Roch Feast. The second, on Aug 15, was after the four day event.

The organizers of the feast made good on their promise to repair the field. They also repaired a damaged stone wall around a tree well even though it was not a result of the feast.

In the fall, the field was partitioned when children returned to school in order to give half the field a chance to recover at a time.

Thursday’s BOE meeting agenda can be found here. The St. Roch field use request materials are here.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to say the First Selectman will not oversee permits, but in his role as “Municipal Coordinator” will advise the committee on process.