ELC needs proper exterior protection to reopen

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 9:45am

An accident in late July that severely damaged a wall in the rooms that house the Block Island Early Learning Center had the effect of cancelling the remainder of the summer camp season, and town Building Official Marc Tillson has been adamant that the school won’t reopen until the building has proper outside guardrails to protect the structure if an accident like were to happen again.

In an effort to get the building re-opened in time for the beginning of the school year — Tuesday, Sept. 4 — the matter of approving new guardrails for the building is on the agendas of both the Historic District Commission and the Planning Board for next week. “We’re going to quickly get it through and have all these things approved. We’re moving forward. It’s what we all want. This is good news. I promise you the building permits will be processed promptly to get this taken care of,” Tilson said on Wednesday, Aug. 22.

The building, which is owned by Block Island Economic Development, was approved without any plans for guardrails outside the building when it was constructed in 2002. 

Tilson said the town has allowed BIED borrow the plastic guardrails that were used during the Old Town Road bridge repair, but they are not the proper protection of the building. Tillson said those barriers can be filled with 200 gallons of water and weigh 1,800 pounds when full, but said, “some of them are empty.” He said those barriers also need to be tied together, which they currently are not. Tillson said the barriers could be an impediment to the elderly residents that sometimes use the building.

The accident, which involved a single vehicle, occurred on a Monday morning in late July, when the Early Learning Center’s summer program was not in session. Subsequently, there were no children in the room when the accident occurred. Tillson said there would be liability issues if the building reopened without the proper protection. 

The room is also the ELC’s saferoom and is the location of its preschool bathroom, requirements mandated by the Department of Children Youth Services.

“There is a real need for that guardrail,” said Tillson. “I’m not going to put myself or the town in that kind of liability.” 

BIED has requested that the next time DCYF inspects the building the group would like to be present. A letter from BIED sent to the staff at the ELC concluded by saying, “It has always been our intention to provide a safe place for our children to enjoy a rewarding educational experience. In this connection, along with the ELC, we would like to hear the possible recommendations of the DCYF.”