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Letter: Darien Senior Center Must Be Replaced

The Darien Senior Activities Center is so dilapidated that her friends won't come back a second time, Ruth Anne Ramsey, a former member of the Advisory Commission on Aging and Affordable Housing, writes in her letter to the editor.

To the editor:

An affluent/upscale community like Darien should be embarrassed to fight over a Senior/Community center that has been vetted and approved by every board that needed to approve it. There is a point where we have to get over trying to be right to make others wrong and just do the right thing for our town.

I think opposition to the  approved plan should sign up for classes at the current Senior Center and invite friends—as I have tried to do over the past year or so. Not one would return after the first visit because it was so depressing. One of my friends actually told me she could not return for another class because the low self esteem she felt entering the senior center. Last spring I had to stop going because of allergy and asthma attacks when I attended classes.

I know of at least four friends who are well into their 70’s who would attend classes and probably eat lunch there too if the place was not so "depressing,” so its very likely there will be increased attendance with a new center.

There are a lot of opinions based on selective  facts like "Sell the property at 35 Leroy." What amount of money has our town spent defending itself at the corner of Leroy and West? That property that was owned by the library and was sold to "developers" and is now owned by the Stefanoni’s. We are paying the price in dollars and hundreds of volunteer hours as our boards and commissions listen to proposals. If we sell it, how do we get to choose what happens there?  I refer you to Fred Conze’s comments regarding this option.

What is wrong with a town facility being used by multiple groups?  My church is used by multiple groups for various activities when its not being used as a place of worship.

Where are the costs for the project on Edgerton that the No’s are promoting—are we factoring in the value of the land there? We can’t have land value factored into one plan and not the other. How many more years would it take to get that plan approved?  

Let's do the right thing and move forward with the currently approved plan. The plan has been studied, debated and voted on and has been endorsed by Democrats and Republicans. Put politics aside and just do what you know is right for our senior citizens who are forced to be in a place that is disgraceful.

Saying no is discrimination of the worst sort against people who have no choices—or they would not be at the Edgerton facility.

Ruth Anne Ramsey

Former Member Advisory Commission on Aging and Affordable Housing

James Palen November 30, 2011 at 03:50 AM
Just got done watching this video: Check it out ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6qtxUdll94 If our kids got on the bus each morning and went to a school that was as run down as the current senior center, this town would be up in arms and would want something done about it. Oh, wait, some of the schools were that run down and we did do something about it - we tore them down and built new ones. As for the $6.9mm cost of building the senior center at town hall -- that is the price of what it costs to build a new senior center and the byproduct is consolidating 3 properties into 2. The "cost" to tax payers is $440,000 per year as we aren't paying for the center upfront. That number sounds pretty close to the $360,000 that will likely be spent in perpetuity to introduce a foreign language program to the elementary school. I certainly hope that a PAC called "StopTheLanguage" isn't set up. I think the right foreign language program in our elementary schools would be great. Let's not dance around the issue: The "No" side of the referendum "knows" that if this project does not happen, it will be "years" until a new one is approved.
Vickie Riccardo December 01, 2011 at 11:49 PM
Mr. Palen -- Do you have any substantive information to back up your assertion that: "The 'No' side of the referendum 'knows' that if this project does not happen, it will be 'years' until a new one is approved."? Everyone seems to agree that we need a new Senior Center, and it's a credit to the Town that we have the will to undertake replacing the currently deteriorating facility in tough economic times. The disagreement is about whether the Shuffle is the best and most cost effective way to reach the laudable goal of replacing our Senior Center. Reasonable people differ, and it is their right to express their views via referendum.
Debra Ritchie December 01, 2011 at 11:54 PM
Vote Yes Darien. The time is now. visit www.voteyesdarien.com
sebastian dangerfield December 02, 2011 at 01:25 AM
Ms Ricccardo, If you were to try your best at describing the number of years it has been since the town recognized the need for a new senior center, and today, how long would you venture it has been? If you ask me, it has been at least since 2002. So, I dont think its unreasonable to conclude that it can be many more years. I doubt either one of us can pinpoint exactly why its taken so long, so the conclusion would have to be, there is no end in sight, if this plan gets voted down. If the anti-shuffle people had an alternative plan (not just a back of the envelope estimate ) perhaps we could say it could possibly done in 2-3 years? But they dont, I would think it is logical for not only the anti-shuffle crowd to know it will be years, but also everyone who pays any attention to the matter. Are you saying you think you could put a plan together and have it built in a few months? If that is what you believe, then I would ask that you explain to all of us why it has taken 10 years to get to this point, and why it would be different going forward.
James Palen December 02, 2011 at 02:35 AM
Vickie - I have had many conversations with those opposed to the shuffle but I do not have a document signed by them whereby each of them state how long it would take to do the following: 1. Develop a new proposal for senior/community center 2. Develop a new long term solution for 35 Leroy 3. Develop a new long term solution for affordable or senior housing at Edgerton 4. Get approval from the BOS, BOF and RTM to appropriate money to conduct another design study [4a]. Hold referendum regarding such expenditure 5. Get approval from the BOS, BOF and RTM to appropriate more money to do another full architectural design [5a]. Hold referendum regarding such expenditure 6. Complete a full engineering and design study 7. Give the public and RTM subcommittees 4-6 months to study the project and provide comment 8. Get approval from the BOS, BOF and RTM to bond for the necessary funds to build senior center [8a]. Hold referendum regarding the expenditure of such funds 9. Get approval from the BOS, BOF and RTM to sell 35 Leroy [9a]. Hold referendum regarding the sale of 35 Leroy 10. Build the project My sincere apologies for “assuming” that those opposed to the current senior center / shuffle project “know” that this would take years. However, I and others believe that if the current project does not go forward, it would be 2-3 years until a new senior center was erected. For me, that is too long to not take advantage of a great plan.

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