BOS hear architects' report on facility shuffle
It's been seven months since First Selectman David Campbell first proposed shuffling town facilities to find new homes for the Board of Education and senior center, and a new purpose for the building at 35 Leroy Ave.
In the time since Campbell first announced his original vision of razing the current senior center at 30 Edgerton Street to create another playing field, placing the senior center in the current BOE space at Town Hall, and moving the BOE offices to the old library site on Leroy Avenue, there have been some additions, subtractions and modifications.
In January, Campbell assembled a task force to study the three facilities and "determine the best long-term location for the senior center and the Board of Education and any subsequent recommended alterations to the subject properties." In February, he announced plans to look into creating senior affordable housing at the Edgerton site rather than a playing field. As the calendar pages flipped forward to March, the BOS voted to hire Beinfield Architecture, PC to examine the proposed shuffle.
Monday night, Beinfield's Fritz Morris presented the firm's findings to the Board. In his report, he identified two possibilities: "Option-1," which involves moving the senior center to 35 Leroy Ave.; and "Option-2," which involved moving the senior center to the current BOE office space, and shifting the BOE offices to 35 Leroy Ave.
According to the report, each option would require tweaking the facilities to fit their new roles. Moving the senior center to the old library site would require the construction of a new elevator in order to provide access to a basement-level woodworking shop and wellness center, according to Morris. It would also require moving part of the current mezzanine deck in order to create higher ceilings in the dining room, he said.
The structural changes to the dining room would be "worthwhile," Morris said Monday night. They would enlarge the room, and maximize the square footage, as well as increasing daylighting.
There would be no major structural changes for the second option, according to Morris.
"I have to say, I'm trying to be impartial, but I don't like the idea that you're putting programming in the basement with the senior center at Leroy," Morris said.
There's a high degree of difficulty associated with installing an elevator for the woodshop, after which the space is still not ideal, he said.
"For Option-2 there are more positives for both the senior center and the Board of Ed offices, from an architectural standpoint," he said.
According to the report, there are three "positives" listed for Option-1, along with 11 challenges, the numbers for option-2 are 13 and two, respectively.
The cost for the first option is estimated at $2.7 million, while the second option would cost the Town $3.4 million, according to budget estimations included in the report.
"These are very interesting permutations and concepts here," said Democratic Selectman David Bayne. "And the question is: How do we pay for it?"
The Board of Selectmen will be discussing just that at its next meeting.
"My concern, obviously, is the taxpayers of Darien, and not have any program that will cause a spike in taxes," Campbell said. "All the projects we're talking about [were] already approved by the RTM, then this coming along ... there's different time frame, different costs. We're trying to see how we spread them out so the cost to the taxpayers is kind of equalized out."
Other projects that will be discussed by the BOS in the near future include the Weed Beach project as well as the new police department.
"Bonding will probably never be lower than it is right now, so we're very concerned that we don't miss a window," Campbell said.
Republican Selectman Jayme Stevenson, who was also the chair of Campbell's task force spoke in favor of the report's conclusions.
"I think this is an extremely economical solution, given we own quality buildings and we have several needs that can all be addressed within these two facilities for what appears to be a remarkably economical price," Stevenson said.
But Bayne was not convinced.
The next Board meeting will take place at 7:45 p.m., Monday June 19 in Town Hall room 206.