To the Editor:
A recent letter to the editor urges Southbury to build a community center. The writer states that in 2014 the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a community center at the recommendation of the Regional Community Center Task Force.
I did a bit of research and did not find any vote by the BoS on this matter. I did, however, find the 2012 Americorps Community Center Comprehensive Report which was based on a survey taken by 58 people of whom 38 were Southbury residents.
I’m not sure if I am for or against a community center, maybe it would be nice, so I kept digging. For the record, the RCTF was not terminated by First Selectman Manville; it was terminated because there isn’t a suitable piece of town-owned property that would meet the YMCA’s criteria.
Newtown recently built a $26.5 million center and Seymour is looking at building one for $15 million. I think the $20 million number that is being bandied about is probably a fair estimate to build one for Southbury.
Newtown’s project came about following $15 million in gifts and grants and citizens voted to bond the remainder. Newtown’s operational costs include five full-time and five+ part-time positions; G.E. is funding operating costs at $1M million per year for the first five years. All this information is available on the Newtown website.
While the idea of a community center sounds nice, I can’t stop thinking about the burden that will be placed on our taxpayers. Are they willing to increase the mill rate to cover $20 million in bonding with an additional $1M million in operating expenses per year?
We should also consider how this will the impact local businesses on the grand list who provide similar services. Perhaps we could enlist a good place to start would be by bringing in a fundraising expert like BoS Candidate Emily Harrison to evaluate potential donors.
Otherwise, this is not a fiscally responsible move for Southbury. Let’s see if there is an appetite this project.