It’s more than a little frustrating for supporters of a community center to see both the Town’s proposal for a new Town Hall, whose cost will most likely be well over the approved bond amount from the 2015 bonding vote, as well as a seemingly fast-track proposal to move the highway garage to a location on East Street where we would be leasing, not owning, the property, ignoring, again, the vote in 2015 approving the bonding for the renovation of Bridge Street School (BSS) as a community center.
By October of 2017, the Permanent Building Commission (PBC) had put in hundreds of hours of planning (over two years) on the BSS project and were ready to hire an architect and construction-manager-at risk, when the First Selectman called a halt to the process. In minutes from a 10/19/17 PBC meeting, “Chairman Sangiovanni noted that the Bridge Street School project is currently suspended. It is not terminated or discontinued but due to the uncertainty of the State budget, it is suspended.”
The First Selectman made the decision to suspend the project because of worry about State finances and how that would affect Suffield, a not unreasonable position. Minutes from the Board of Finance meeting on December 18, 2018 stated, “Treasurer Davidson, First Selectman Mack and Deb Cerrato will decide if we should go forward with the Bridge Street School project.” The Town made that decision in 2015 by approving a bond to renovate BSS.
State budget declines have not been what the Town feared, and over the past two years Suffield has received more from the State than expected. We seem to have money to effectively build a new Town Hall and lease a highway department garage. Where is the money for a project approved by the Town almost three years ago? In the history of Suffield, has there ever been a referendum on a bonded project that was passed, but not fulfilled? This is a dangerous precedent.
Renovating and creating a new and vibrant community center at the Bridge Street School site would be a major benefit to the town. Why would this center enhance Suffield?
• It would fill a need for pre-school programming here in town and bring in money spent in other towns for programs that are not offered here because of lack of space during the daytime hours.
• It would provide teen programs for after school and evenings at a convenient location in the center of town.
• It would provide space for adult cultural and educational programs.
• It would provide needed gym space.
• It would restore and beautify one of our town center historic buildings and in the process create a centralized location for adult and children’s programming.
• It would create another connection to Suffield Village businesses, the newly renovated library, the senior center and residents nearby.
• It would provide space for the Friends of KML to continue their yearly book sale, which raises approximately $15,000 for library programming.
It’s time we, as a community, looked into the future and create a vibrant, affordable and usable new space at the renovated Bridge Street Community Center!