Trumbull First Selectman recommends against combined senior/aquatics facility

First Selectman Vicki Tesoro recommended the town no longer consider building a combination senior, community and aquatics center on Hardy Lane.

First Selectman Vicki Tesoro recommended the town no longer consider building a combination senior, community and aquatics center on Hardy Lane.

Donald Eng /

TRUMBULL — Citing, among other things “an unsustainable increase in the cost of construction,” First Selectman Vicki Tesoro recommended the town no longer consider building a combination senior, community and aquatics center on a 25-acre town-owned parcel of land on Hardy Lane.

Instead, she suggested pursuing them as two separate projects.

Tesoro gave an impassioned plea Wednesday night during a combined meeting of the community facilities building committee and aquatics facilities building committee. The committees had joined together to discuss the possibility of the combination community center and aquatics facility, which some preliminary designs showed could be between 55,000 and 60,000 square feet in size.

Though she had supported the combined project in the past, Tesoro said many factors — including “the war in Ukraine and the resulting instability in the world economy” — have worsened already pervasive material shortages and supply chain issues.

“While a combined facility has the potential to be a tremendous long-term investment for Trumbull, we simply cannot ignore the current economic reality that it is likely not financially feasible at this time,” Tesoro said. “That said, the senior community center and aquatics facility are still long-standing needs that must be addressed and we have reached the point where inaction is no longer an option. Thus, my recommendation is to again revert to separate projects.”

She said there were financial benefits to pursuing the projects separately, mainly because it “may increase the potential for facility specific grants not otherwise available if the projects were combined.”

The chairs of both the community facilities building committee and aquatics facilities building committee seemed somewhat disappointed by the recommendation for the radical pivot, but ultimately decided to take the first selectman’s suggestion and pursue the projects separately.

“I was hopeful that we had gained some momentum and some traction with a joint project because I do continue to feel that, all things being equal, a joint project would offer a long-term valuable asset to the community,” said Jason Marsh, chairman of the aquatics facility building committee.

Despite his wish for the combined project, Marsh said he didn’t want to be “tone deaf” to what is happening in the world from an economic standpoint.

“I agree that it’s probably not the right time to put forward a project of this magnitude,” he said. “My concern is that there’s never going to be a great time to do a capital project like this because it is an investment.”

In her comments, Tesoro said that, before the two committees merged, the senior community center was the closest to being “shovel ready,” so she recommended that “immediate short-term attention should be focused there with the goal of having a project of reasonable size and scope ready to capitalize on potential grant funding.”

As for the aquatics project, Tesoro said she wanted to be clear that “there is no scenario in which I would favor renovating or rebuilding the existing Hillcrest pool.” She was referring to the pool at Hillcrest Middle School, which closed last July and has not reopened. Earlier this year, the Trumbull Parks and Recreation Department announced that, due to various problems with the pool, it was unlikely that it would reopen.

However, Tesoro said it might be a good idea to consider building a pool on the grounds of one of the schools.

The combined community senior center and aquatics facility had come under fire from some in the community, many of whom objected to having the large facility on the Hardy Lane parcel, near a residential neighborhood.

Following the discussion, Lori Hayes-O’Brien, chair of the community facilities building committee, suggested that her committee and the aquatics committee should “break up.” Because the latter committee didn’t have a quorum, there couldn’t be a vote on the decision, though Marsh said he approved of the split.

Hayes-O’Brien said her committee’s next step would be to have a special meeting — tentatively planned for next Wednesday — to discuss the senior community center. Marsh said he hoped to have his committee meeting again soon, hopefully later this month or in early July.

Earlier in the meeting, Hayes-O’Brien, like Marsh, expressed disappointment at the need for the projects to go their separate ways, but understood why it had to happen. “It feels necessary but disappointing,” she said.