Trumbull committee to again explore alternate sites for senior, community center

Members of the Trumbull community facilities building committee meet July 13, 2022.

Members of the Trumbull community facilities building committee meet July 13, 2022.


TRUMBULL — After hearing continued concerns about building a new senior and community center on town-owned property at Hardy Lane, the community facilities building committee is asking officials to reexamine the possibilities of using other sites for the project.

During Wednesday’s meeting of the committee, chair Lori Hayes-O’Brien recommended that public works director George Estrada, parks and recreation director Dmitri Paris, and community and economic development director Rina Bakalar review some of the other sites that had been considered in the past, to determine their strengths and weaknesses.

Hayes-O’Brien said it’s the third time the list of potential sites has been reviewed.

“And that’s OK, because times change,” she said. “I think it’s important to talk about any site that has come up in conversation. Obviously, it’s important for the public to know why these sites do and don’t work.”

Other sites that had been considered for the project included Wagner Farm, the Long Hill administrative building, Indian Ledge Park, the current senior center at Priscilla Place, Twin Brooks Park, Old Mine Park and the Tashua Knolls recreation area. Previously, the architect hired for the project rated all the sites on their appropriateness for the project, and Hardy Lane scored highest.

But Hayes-O’Brien said the new review shouldn’t get stuck on those rankings, but should review each site’s pros and cons. She asked the committee to think about criteria that should be used when considering where the new site should be built. One criteria discussed in the past is whether the site in question is centrally located in town.

Committee member Ron Foligno questioned whether that should be a priority, as many patrons of the senior and community center would likely be driving there. “That’s the purpose of a car — to get you places,” he said. “If you can’t get there, there are senior center buses.”

He proposed considering sites that are less centrally located.

Hayes-O’Brien said she understood his point, but that having the site too far afield could be a concern for some. “I’ve heard from people that, where the senior center is now, for people from the other end of town it is a detriment to them to drive there,” she said.

Until last month, the community facilities building committee was working with the aquatics facilities building committee on a proposal to build a combination senior, community and aquatics center at the 25-acre town-owned parcel of land at Hardy Lane.

But the two committees decided to part ways and pursue their projects separately after First Selectman Vicki Tesoro made a plea at their last joint meeting that they split the project, arguing that “it is likely not financially feasible at this time.”

Even with the removal of the aquatics facility from the equation, the idea of building the new senior and community center on the Hardy Lane parcel had come under fire from residents, many of whom said that such a facility would disrupt the surrounding neighborhood, create traffic problems and potentially cause a financial hardship to the town.

Many such residents spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, including Cindy Penkoff of Columbine Drive. Penkoff said putting the center at Hardy Lane will “destroy a residential neighborhood,” and is too costly. She implored the committee to go to town officials and tell them that the plan wasn’t feasible.

“That is what real leaders do,” she said. “They admit they have been paying attention and have changed their stance on a situation based on the information at hand.”

Hayes-O’Brien emphasized at the start of the meeting that the committee ultimately doesn’t decide whether the project gets built. “We are tasked with coming up with where and what, but we have no input as to whether this happens or not,” she said.

Though Hayes-O’Brien was open to re-examining sites, she told the committee that, eventually, a decision would need to be made and a plan would need to be brought to the town. “We can’t keep doing this every couple of years,” she said.