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Rep. Courtney touts bill; tours Tolland school with crumbling foundation

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TOLLAND — Lawmakers and school officials provided an update Tuesday on the state of repairs to the Birch Grove Primary School in Tolland.

The school is exhibiting the cracks and staining traditionally associated with mineral to blame — pyrrhotite.

Trudging through the snow, Congressman Joe Courtney toured the Birch Grove Primary School in Tolland. He let the community know that help is on the way.

“Which you can see in big bold face here is assistance for repair of school foundations affected by pyrrhotite,” said Courtney when referencing his bill.

Under his bill, HB 865 the federal government would kick in up to 50 percent of the repair or replacement costs for a crumbling foundation. But it’s a long way from becoming law, and Tolland can’t afford to wait.

“What’s happening here at Birch Grove is basically just a totally almost emergency type situation,” said the Congressman.

Luckily, the state is stepping in.

State Rep. Pat Wilson Pheanious represents Tolland, Ashford, Willington.

“The Department of Education is assisting with 52 percent of the funding on what looks like it’s going to be a 42 million dollar project,” she said.

As for the rest of the money, “We’re going to try to do our best to make sure we get funds from other sources if we can do this unexpected and terrible problem doesn’t fall completely on the wonderful people in the town.”

Strong winds forced the school to close just over a week ago after concerns the canopy could collapse.

“That was related. The canopy out there is structured into the concrete,” explained Tolland Schools Superintendent Dr. Walter Willett.

The foundation itself is spider-cracking. Construction to repair the building will likely begin early next year. The crumbling foundation crisis was discovered in residential homes and has now expanded to commercial and public buildings.

“This is a 20-year-old building that should be open for kids for another 80 years and unfortunately now the town is scrambling to have to make emergency repairs or even more,” explained Congressman Courtney.

The problem has even spread across the state line into pets of western Massachusetts.

Connecticut created a captive insurance fund to assist in foundation repairs but it’s only available to homeowners. There’s a public hearing on a crumbling foundation relief bill at the Capitol complex on Friday.

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