Changing names: Building committee takes on new identity

Ushering in a new era usually involves some change.

And that’s what happened at Monday night’s Trumbull Town Council meeting when the town’s Senior/Community Center and Library Study Building Committee successfully rebranded itself as the Trumbull Community Center Study and Building Committee in a discussion that referenced and considered calls to slow down the committee’s process.

A few dozen residents, made up of mostly senior citizens, came out to hear the committee’s quarterly report Monday and witnessed the vote on a name change, as well as the appointment of new committee member — Planning and Zoning Commissioner David Preusch.

However, those advocating for more research to assess what the town population wants for a new facility, walked away unable to change the committee’s decision to go ahead with plans to hear two site proposals from four local architecture firms.

“My suggestion is to follow the successful model used by the library, which I have talked about throughout this process,” said Vicki Tesoro, who ran for first selectman in last year’s municipal election. “I continue to urge you to direct the Building Committee to hire an independent consultant to both design and implement a professional anonymous survey and to facilitate any other meetings such as focus groups and public hearings.  

“This will guarantee the integrity of the data collected and ensure that residents can freely express their opinions,” she added.

Tesoro was one of a dozen people who spoke on the subject during the public comment segment of the council’s meeting, with many senior citizen speakers passionately asking for a new center to replace the current one located at 23 Priscilla Place.  

First Selectman Tim Herbst was the final speaker before the formal meeting began and he spoke extensively on the history of the research into a new community center that goes back over 17 years.

He told the room that the 2014 Plan for Conservation Development was conducted by an independent, non-partisan consulting group that determined a new community center and senior center ranked as the top two priorities on Trumbull’s infrastructure needs over the next 10 years.

Herbst also highlighted how he believed the inclusion of a new survey and request for feedback in the annual tax mailing will generate a substantial increase in information to guide the process going forward.

Four architects, two sites

Committee co-chairmen Dan Marconi and Joe Pifko provided a quarterly update on the project to the room.

Despite Tesoro and others calls to slow down the process, the committee has decided to go ahead with the plans it approved at a May 24 meeting, which are to allow four, local architectural firms to make presentations later this month for two potential sites — the Long Hill Administration building and the Trumbull Nature and Arts Center.

Mr. Pifko said that the committee will be assessing each firm’s ideas against the same 10 questions for both renovating an existing building and beginning from open space.  

He made it very clear that neither of these locations have been officially selected as potential sites and that “we are still at the beginning of the process.”

If in the future the committee decides to recommend a site for consideration, several other town departments would need to become involved, such as Planning and Zoning and the Police Department in accordance with town rules for new public buildings.

Studious building

A substantial amount of debate — about 30 minutes of the meeting — concerned the resolution to change the official name of the committee from the Senior/Community Center and Library Study and Building Committee to the Trumbull Community Center Building Committee.  

Since the library portion of the committee’s work had ended months ago, as the library pursues its own study, the essence of the debate concerned whether both “Senior” and “Study” should be removed.  

It was quickly obvious that although much of the impetus for a new facility concerns the seniors, the Town Council wants to move ahead with the assumption that a new building will need to serve all age groups in the community.  

However, the original resolution on the agenda called for “Study” to be removed.  

Members from both sides of the political aisle overruled a minority of Republicans to have “Study” remain in the committee’s name, noting that they felt it was important to convey to the public that no final decision to build or renovate had yet been reached, and that a lot work must be done before the process to actually begin building or renovating will commence.

One open position

Also on the agenda were two resolutions to elect a new person for the eight-member committee, with only one opening available.

The first candidate was Cindy Katske, an attorney who was praised by several members of the Town Council for her work on the charter revision.

She narrowly lost her bid for election to the committee in an 8-9-1 vote.

The second candidate, David Preusch, an architect who worked on the Trumbull High School renovation committee and member of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, was subsequently elected to the open position.  

Councilman Bill Mecca asked if it would be possible to expand the committee to allow both candidates to join the committee.

Chairman Carl Massaro said that it may be possible in the future, as the project expands, but that it was not possible as part of Monday’s night agenda.

Pifko and Massaro told The Times after the meeting that they didn’t know if the new survey would be anonymous.