They weren’t summoned to the principal’s office, but close to it.

All three candidates for first selectman have confirmed they will attend a meeting of the town’s Senior Commission Friday at 10 a.m. in the Long Hill Conference Room. Their presence was requested in a memo from Chairman Amy Dezenzo that at times bordered on scolding (full text online).

“We have had the occasion to read some of your comments in the local media relative to a proposed community center and are intensely concerned,” Dezenzo wrote. “In speaking to members of the commission, we are deeply troubled that you have taken positions on the future of the senior center without attending a commission meeting, without speaking to members of the commission, nor have you spoken to our new Human Services Director, Michele Jakab. In fact, I confirmed this morning with our Human Services Director that all three of you have not had any conversations with our director relative to the challenges with the current building and our collective feelings with the new, proposed building.”

Over the past few weeks, Democrat Vicki Tesoro and Republican Paul Lavoie had issued statements indicating their intended to put the proposed Senior and Community Center on hold. Tesoro said “not one penny more” should be spent exploring a new building, advocating instead a renovation of the existing Senior Center, partially funded by a state grant to upgrade the kitchen. Lavoie wants the project delayed until the town’s financial situation with regard to state education funding becomes more clear. Michael Redgate, an unaffiliated candidate, has refrained from public comment, but said he had met with three members of the Senior Commission and wanted to see firm cost estimates on the project.

Dezenzo reiterated that the current building on Priscilla Place, the former Nichols School, is nearly 100 years old, not ADA-compliant, and too small for the growing membership. In addition the building lacks a functioning kitchen and its 57 parking spaces are nowhere near enough, she wrote.

“With the membership now growing to over 1,000 members, we have seniors that are now parking several blocks away and crossing Huntington Turnpike, a major thoroughfare that is heavily traveled,” she wrote. “This compromises the safety of senior citizens every day. This cannot be justified.”

In the past 10 years, the high school received a $66 million renovation, and the town spent tens of millions of dollars on road paving and sewer expansion, “yet the senior population in Trumbull continues to grow and the senior population continues to be placed at the back of the line. The job of a municipality is to represent all people and all constituencies fairly and equitably.”

The memo, forwarded through First Selectman Tim Herbst’s office, went out Monday at 1 p.m., and by later afternoon all three had confirmed their attendance.

Lavoie agreed with Dezenzo’s assessment that the town needs a new Senior Center. He said Tesoro’s plan to renovate the existing building would akin to throwing good money after bad.

“We absolutely need to do something, and refurbishing is not an option,” he said.

But the timing, with the town poised to lose millions in state funding for schools and employee pensions, could not be worse, he said.

“It’s like if you’re planning a home renovation, and the day before you’re going to sign the contract, you find out you could be getting laid off in six months,” he said. “Let’s wait until the dust settles and we see how bad this is going to be.”

Tesoro has also cited the state’s financial situation in calling for an end to talk of a new Senior Center, or at the very least a referendum on the issue.

“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.

Full text:

Dear Ms. Tesoro, Mr. Redgate and Mr. Lavoie:

On behalf of the Senior Commission, I would like to invite you to attend our next meeting this coming Friday, August 25, 2017 at 10:00 AM in the Long Hill Conference Room at the Trumbull Town Hall,

We have had the occasion to read some of your comments in the local media relative to a proposed community center and are intensely concerned. In speaking to members of the commission, we are deeply troubled that you have taken positions on the future of the senior center without attending a commission meeting, without speaking to members of the commission, nor have you spoken to our new Human Services Director, Michele Jakab. In fact, I confirmed this morning with our Human Services Director that all three of you have not had any conversations with our director relative to the challenges with the current building and our collective feelings with the new, proposed building.

The current building is almost 100 years old. The building is not ADA compliant, does not have a functioning kitchen and the meeting rooms and lecture rooms are not big enough to accommodate membership. At the December 2016 holiday luncheon, we did not have sufficient space to accommodate all of the seniors who wished to attend the holiday luncheon and we were required to develop a waiting list. We also have waiting lists for our lecture series, because there is not enough room in the building to accommodate the attendance at lectures.

When Ms. Jakab assumed her duties in June of 2016 we had 420 members. As of today, we have more than 1,000 members of the senior center and it is growing every single day.

Perhaps the single greatest issue at the current center remains parking. Before the increase in membership, parking remained a serious challenge, with only 57 parking spaces for the entire center. Of the 57 parking spaces, 6 are dedicated for handicapped parking and 3 are dedicated for senior bus transportation. With the membership now growing to over 1000 members, we have seniors that are now parking several blocks away and crossing Huntington Turnpike, a major thoroughfare that is heavily traveled. This compromises the safety of senior citizens every day. (Please see the attached photos). Would you honestly have us believe that 48 independent parking spaces is adequate to meet the needs of over 1000 system users? This cannot be justified.

Over the last decade, we have spent $66 million dollars to renovate a high school, $52 million dollars to expand sewers throughout the Town, spent tens of millions of dollars on road paving and yet the senior population in Trumbull continues to grow and the senior population continues to be placed at the back of the line. The job of a municipality is to represent all people and all constituencies fairly and equitably.

Please advise if you plan on attending our meeting this coming Friday.

Sincerely,

Amy DeZenzo Chairwoman, Trumbull Senior Commission