Letter: Senior Center project is a runaway train

To the Editor:

A year ago, the Town Council created a building committee to determine whether to build a new Senior/Community Center and Library in Trumbull. The committee selected Island Brook Park as the site for a new Senior Center, and on March 7 the Town Council will vote on a resolution to authorize the building committee to design and construct a new facility.

This process has become a runaway train. We must apply the brakes to ensure that any new facility is done the right way using the right process.

Under Town Council Building Committee Rules, all building committees are required to make quarterly progress reports to the Town Council. This committee has reported to the Council only once — in August — since convening a year ago.

Once. Where is the Town Council oversight? Why hasn’t the Council insisted that its rules be followed?

Those same rules require the committee to obtain written approval of the site from the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Health Director, a report from the traffic authority (Police Commission), and seepage/drainage tests, and submit them to the Town Council. Those steps have not been taken. How can the Council authorize plans to be drawn up and a building to be built in the absence of those critical steps?

Do the people of Trumbull even want a new Senior Center? We really don’t know, because the process used by the building committee is flawed and the public input so sparse that it’s impossible to know what the people of Trumbull want.

The committee surveyed seniors and the public, but the senior survey received only 699 responses and the public survey received only 426 responses. The senior survey did not even ask whether seniors would like a new Senior Center built.

Four public hearings were held, but only a handful of residents attended and/or spoke. Of those who spoke, many seniors did not want a new senior center and felt that upgrades to the current center would be sufficient, or were concerned about increased fees at a new center. However, there has been no discussion whatsoever about the impact of a new facility on taxes, operating costs, or fees.

Newtown is building a new community center and has done it the right way. Newtown received 3,246 survey responses and held three public hearings at which dozens of people participated. Among other publicity, Newtown sent two postcards to each household to make sure that everyone knew about the survey.

Trumbull did not do that. Why?

Eighty-five percent of respondents to the public survey said they would like to see a community center in Trumbull. But the committee seems to be treating the community center aspect of this project as an afterthought. Why, especially given the survey results? And why has there been no consideration of including a town pool in the project?

With an estimated $8 million in taxpayer funds at stake, we need to stop this runaway train and do it the right way.
Cindy Katske