Darien Shuffle Referendum Letters: Dec.6 [Update]

Stephen P. Olvany's list of Shuffle benefits; John Sini argues the benefits are valuable; Chris LaJaunie says the town would need to spend for the Senior Center anyway; Finance Board member James McLaughlin says the town has the money.

A list of the nice (not naughty), regarding the Shuffle


To the editor:

Let’s re-cap who benefits from a new Mather Center:

  • Our kids get space for after school Parks & Recreation Department programs.
  • Darien Arts Center Dancers get new state-of-the-art practice studio space with Music.
  • Royal School gets food service to vacate the portable in their playground.
  • Girl Scouts and Brownies get a renovated gym with new bathrooms for their annual Halloween and father-daughter dances.
  • Children’s birthday parties in the DAC Fine Arts Room get a much improved setting and bathrooms.
  • Parks & Recreation basketball, hockey and volleyball players, and moms get locker rooms with showers adjacent to the courts in the gym.
  • We all get a centrally located emergency shelter with a café & kitchen for use during storms and power outages.
  • Oh, and the seniors get a new center.


Stephen P. Olvany



The Shuffle: Good value for the money we'll spend


To the editor:
I will be voting “Yes” for a second time on December 13th to support the approved Shuffle project. After a considerable amount of due diligence, I (like an overwhelming majority of my fellow RTM colleagues and other elected officials) came to the conclusion that the Shuffle is the most cost efficient method to meet Darien’s Senior Center needs while also delivering benefits to the broader community through multiple building renovations. 
Some opponents to the Shuffle have falsely charged that the reconstruction of a new Senior Center at the Edgerton site would be a much smaller and cheaper project.  However, a study completed in 2008 for former First Selectman Klein—and verified more recently by Mr. Campbell—tells a much different story.  This comprehensive needs-based assessment showed that a new stand-alone facility would be a similar size and price as the renovated space at the Mather Community Center, yet would provide much less payback to taxpayers since it would leave 35 Leroy vacant and the underutilized Town Hall Annex in its current state. 
Lastly, I am a father of three young boys that are currently enrolled in the Darien public school system. Like Dr. Falcone, Darien's superintendent of schools, I am very confident that pursuing the Shuffle's approved capital plan will not negatively impact our schools' operating budget. By voting “Yes,” you will send a message that you support the Mather Center, which will benefit our ENTIRE community—old and young—for many years to come.
John Sini, Jr.
RTM, District 1

The Shuffle: An efficient way of spending money


To the editor:

Lately there’s been a lot of noise about the Shuffle plan being a waste of money when we should be focusing on our schools. We all want what’s best for our children. I’d like an elementary foreign language plan, too. But the Shuffle has nothing to do with that.

To state the obvious, not everyone within a community will ever have the same needs at the same time. So what do we do? We support each other. When Tokeneke Elementary was rebuilt, Darien didn’t just tax Tokeneke residents. When the high school was rebuilt, it was not funded only by residents with high school students . The whole town chipped in. Plenty of Darien folks who don’t have children in school still support the system through taxes. That is how democratic governments work; you simply can’t subdivide every need into little separate pieces of the funding pie.

Think your taxes will drop if the Shuffle fails?  Highly unlikely. Minimum repairs the current Senior Center at Edgerton will cost at least $3.3 mil, and makes little sense, like painting over a rusted piece of metal. $3.3 mil will be spent regardless. It can either be wasteful spend or efficient. So we are talking about a net $3.67 mil to get a new community center.

Refurbishing Town Hall costs about a third per square foot vs. new build. Ask any contractor. Unused town buildings cost money for upkeep. The Shuffle is many birds with a few stones – the cheapest way for what the community needs.

What a terrible message we’d be sending our fellow Darien neighbors—that we don’t want to spend money except for our own narrow interests—that community is lost on us. I’m not a senior, but I will be one day. After decades of seniors supporting our schools, the Shuffle is the just and moral plan. Think about it.

Chris LaJaunie


Board of Finance Member: Darien Has the Money for This


As a member of the Board of Finance I voted in support of the Shuffle for the following reasons:

1. We have an obligation to maintain Darien’s capital assets.  Until the plan for the new high school project was approved over 10 years ago, Darien had under-invested in maintaining its capital assets.  These key public assets make Darien attractive, and—along with our proximity to major employment centers—make our home values, on a relative basis, nearly inelastic.

2. Interest rates have dropped to their lowest level since 1938.  We have an opportunity to finance the project at unprecedented rates; anticipated to be in the 2-2.5 percent range.

3. The Board of Finance has agreed to a self-imposed limit of $100 million of outstanding debt.  Per a July 2011 Moody’s Investors Service analysis of Aaa-rated municipalities in CT, Westport ($172 million) and New Canaan ($137 million) currently have higher levels of outstanding debt than we plan to have at the peak of our long-term debt plan.  

4. The schedule for retiring this debt is short.  In ten years our outstanding debt will be less than $20 million.

James H. McLaughlin

Update: James McLaughlin's letter was added at 7:30 a.m.

james clarke December 06, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Vote NO!!! It has become crystal clear to many in town that the whole shuffle is based on a series of personal agenda. We may need a new senior center but if so it should be explored as an independent project. Not as part of a shuffle. Further, with Dave Campbell's record of complete lack of candor and telling us and the RTM only what he feels like telling us - we all still have a lot of questions to get real answers to. Note that this week Campbell was found in violation of the FOI Act by NOT producing items (emails) that were legally requested in an FOI. Vote NO!!!!
John Boulton December 06, 2011 at 08:00 PM
Really, Mr. Clarke? Not just the Board of Selectmen, but the Commission on Aging, Social Services Commission, Board of Finance and RTM (by a 57-28 vote) all approved the Shuffle after studying it over the past year. Personal agendas don't survive that kind of scrutiny. Why did they approve it? Because it provides a solution to the problems at the Senior Center, puts to good use a valuable Town building at 35 Leroy, makes room for affordable senior housing at the current Senior Center/Hollow Tree School site, while providing all citizens of Darien with a great new community center (with all the benefits Steve Olvany outlines above). Vote YES!!!!
Joyce Ishimata December 06, 2011 at 08:14 PM
James Clarke says "we all still have a lot of questions to get real answers to." If you value candor, please list a lot of questions that you dont have the answers to , please Mr. Clarke. That is, if you are genuinely lacking informations. Joy
Chris LaJaunie December 06, 2011 at 08:25 PM
So who is Mr James Clarke? For being such an active participant in Patch comments, there is no one in Darien by that name...those of us folks supporting the Shuffle are real. You can talk directly to any of us and we all use our real names. For being such a strong advocate of doing nothing, you seem to not actually exist. Who are you really?
John Sini December 06, 2011 at 08:30 PM
Judge for yourself: Every public document related to the Shuffle (and others from the past administration) can be found here: www.voteyesdarien.com/More_Information


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