Candidates cast doubt on community center

The future of the planned combined senior and community center in town was cast into doubt last week, with both party-affiliated candidates for first selectman taking a stand against it.

Democrat Vicki Tesoro called for an immediate halt to planning of the proposed community center, declaring, “Not one more penny of taxpayer money should be spent on this project.” Full statement here.

Tesoro said this was not the right time, building, or location.

“Given the uncertainty of the state budget and other priorities in our town, now is not the time to saddle the community with a project that we don’t even know the people of Trumbull want,” she said.

Republican candidate Paul Lavoie also advocated backing off on the project. Lavoie cited anticipated cuts to state assistance in recommending the new community center be shelved. Full statement here.

“Without knowing the full extent of the anticipated cuts, it makes little sense to continue pursuing a capital improvement project of this scale,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “The better course is to wait until the dust settles in Hartford and have the Town Council reassess the situation at that time. A project like this should be something that unites our community and is not used to score political points.”

Tesoro recommended selling the residential properties on Church Hill Road, where plans call for the construction of the new community center, and allocating the funds toward renovating the existing Senior Center at Priscilla Place. The town should also begin soliciting bids to replace the dilapidated pool at Hillcrest Middle School with a competition pool, she said.

“Replacing the Hillcrest Pool with one that meets the aquatic needs of our town while renovating the current Senior Center will save taxpayers over $10 million and preserve the residential character of Trumbull,” she said.

First Selectman Tim Herbst, who unveiled the proposal at the 2017 State of the Town address, and called its construction the highest priority of his remaining time in office, also weighed in, criticizing the Hartford budget impasse and calling for a delay. Full statement here.

“It is my position that a date for the referendum of a Town Community Center should not be set until the state budget is finalized and adopted,” he said. “There are items in the state budget that remain uncertain and impact our town budget and this project.”

Herbst also called out his potential successors by name, saying, “The decision to construct a community center for our town won’t be made by politicians and certainly won’t be made unilaterally by Vicki Tesoro, Michael Redgate or Paul Lavoie. The decision to proceed with this project will be made by the people of Trumbull at the ballot box when a referendum is called.”

Herbst went on to specifically criticize Tesoro’s plan to sell the Church Hill Road properties, pointing out that in addition to providing space for a community center, the properties also provide additional parking and mid-point access to the Pequonnock River Trail.

Tesoro also welcomed a referendum, saying it was “time the entrenched politicians step aside and let the people decide.”