Letter: Recent community center letter left out important information

To the Editor:

While I am happy that the first selectman has finally acknowledged that residents should have a voice in the decision to build or not build a Senior/Community Center, I believe in his recent letter he left out important facts and provided inaccurate information.  

He ignored the fact that residents should be professionally surveyed by an independent consultant prior to spending millions of dollars on a facility that we don't know if our residents want or need.

The proposed center allows for senior access from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00/4:00 p.m. and after-hours access to non-seniors, yet it is now being referred to as a “Community Center.”

The selectman said more than 1,115 responses were received to two very "detailed surveys."  There were 689 responses to the senior survey and 426 to the non-senior survey. However, it should be noted that from these minimal returns, 200 responses came from the same IP address with the committee admitting the data was flawed.

The survey did not ask the seniors if they wanted a new center built or if they would like their current center renovated. Many seniors that attend the current center have stated that they prefer a renovation with increased programming. Additionally, of the seniors who responded 55% said they were not interested in attending a senior center at all.

The FS overstated those that were interested in a community center at 85% of the 1,115 survey responses.  

In reality, the 85% was of the 426 non-senior survey responses. Importantly, of those interested in a community center, 74% said they expected access all day long, not just after the 3:00  to 4:00 p.m. time that has been proposed.

The Community Center proposal includes a cafe which is sized to accommodate only 20 people. There is a half-sized gym vs. a full gym. There is no pool. There is no weight room.

With very little data to support a new Senior/Community Center, why are we rushing ahead? Why does the Committee have $175,000 to spend on architect fees when we don't know what, if anything, the community wants? Why have the Committee Chairs ignored those that have written, attended, and spoken at meetings asking for a town-wide survey mailed to each household? Why say this project has age groups pitted against each other when in fact those that have been the most vocal have also been the same people that are asking that the seniors’ voices be heard and have asked the committee to cost-out a renovation of the current Senior Center, as requested by many seniors?  

Why is the First Selectman citing 17 year-old data to support a Senior/Community Center rather than gathering concrete, current data?  

Why not make 100% sure that the majority of the taxpayers want a new senior or community center built, rather than "providing additional updates to the community as this project advances."

Stop. Fully survey the taxpayers and listen to the majority of the town before spending millions of dollars.  

As the First Selectman has said “if you start wrong, you end wrong.”  
Mary Isaac