Giving the public what it requests is sometimes the best form of government.

That was the case at the Trumbull Town Council meeting Monday night when hundreds of concerned residents flooded the council’s chambers in Town Hall prepared to denounce the recommendation of Island Brook Park as the future site of a new senior/community center.

That wasn’t the only demand the public was looking to make — many in the audience were also in attendance to ask for the restoration of capital improvement funds to renovate the playground at Indian Ledge Park. The Board of Finance struck the $250,000 project from a bonding resolution at its meeting Feb. 23.

Despite the large crowd, Chairman Carl Massaro postponed the public comment portion of the meeting in favor of the senior/community center and Library Study Committee’s quarterly report.

Ultimately, after an almost hourlong presentation, the public had its biggest question answered and its central point of stress calmed when committee co-chair and District 4 councilman Joe Pifko announced that Island Brook Park had been recently rejected as a possible site because it is in a 100-year floodplain.

The councilman, who has been compiling research through numerous visits to both senior and community centers in Fairfield County and conducting online surveys and public hearings since last summer, told The Times Tuesday that the next step in the committee’s process is developing a strategy for whom the center will serve.

“We do need to go back and get a better pulse of where the town stands on the community center and where that center should be,” he said.

Pifko was adamant that at this stage of the project, there was no chance of the committee recommending a seniors-only center.

“We are not trying to pit one generation against another,” he said.

Town jewels

With the good news in hand, many of the more than 30 residents who had signed up to speak still chose to stay to voice their relief that Island Brook Park would not be the site.  

Many also expressed strong positions that no parks in Trumbull should be considered as  alternative sites since Trumbull’s parks are some of the town’s “jewels.” Residents said Trumbull’s parks, like Island Brook and Indian Ledge, are vital to attracting young families to  Trumbull and are the source of special memories for many longtime residents.  

Renovation possibility

Several speakers questioned why the town was seeking to build a new senior/community center when many of the schools and roads were in serious need of repair and facilities, such as the Hillcrest pool, were virtually unusable.  

Some residents questioned why the existing senior center on Priscilla Place could not be renovated as an alternative, and why some grant funds that had been available for more than a few years had not been used.

Town Council members serving on the committee offered several reasons against a renovation, including that the building has multiple floors and is located in a poor location relative to public transportation. They added that the current center has limited parking and that there are limitations on the use of the grant money.  

The committee stressed to those in attendance that a new building is likely to be the most cost-effective solution versus a renovation, but said it has not eliminated a renovation as a possible end result.

Shifting funds

Later in the meeting, the Town Council restored $250,000 for Indian Ledge, which has had some areas off limits for about year for safety reasons caused by the poor conditions, by taking the funds from the proposed senior/community center project.  

The senior/community center was on the agenda in a separate resolution for authorization of $500,000 to move the committee from a study to a building committee so that it could proceed to begin actually designing the new facility.

The bonding for the proposed center was reduced to $175,000, but the project will continue to move forward, according to Pifko.

The committee leader added Tuesday that some of the funds would be used very soon to expand the efforts to get more public input on the project.