John Lundeen / Democratic candidate for first selectman
A lot of seniors are being told a scare story by the Republicans seeking to hang onto control of the Board of Selectmen. They are telling the seniors that if they want a new senior center, they must fall into line and vote for the current Board majority, under a shuffled leadership in the person of Mrs. Stevenson. This is misinformation deliberately being sown at the senior center, where the Republican ticket has been holding its news conferences.
Our campaign, Darien Working Together, has been consistent and clear that we intend to build a new senior center, but one that is sized and priced appropriately for the 60 or so seniors who use our current senior center on an average day. We have schematics and drawings, just like our opponents do, but while their lavish pictures are distributed over lunch inside the senior center, ours must be handed out discretely, outside the building.
Now that there is a consensus in town that the senior center must be replaced, can't we get beyond the political rhetoric and stop telling scare stories?
The shuffle proposes a senior center of 23,000 square feet, much larger than the current 17,000, which is itself hardly bursting at the seams. When our current senior center rarely gets more than 30 for lunch, do we need a lunch room that seats 170?
Census data show that the Darien population, 65 and over, has actually declined in the last decade, by 2.4 percent, yet the much larger senior center proposed by the shuffle is justified by census figures that project population figures increasing for residents 55 and over. We all know that most residents, aged 55 to 65 are working, raising kids, putting them through college, and not going to a senior center. So why the census data sleight of hand? The flawed demographic analysis is attempting to disguise the economic reality of the market.
What about the Board of Education, which never asked for a brand new set of offices at 35 Leroy Avenue? Why must we spend $2.6 million for town officials who are happy where they are, to move them to a 22,000 square foot building where they will only use 71 percent of the space, walling off the old auditorium in the basement as unneeded and unusable, and renovating the old children's library as a "public meeting room," like those at about seven other places in town? Why should we, the taxpayers, assume the ongoing, permanent responsibility for maintaining, heating and staffing this space?
If we pay attention to what rational town planning has determined as the most appropriate use of that valuable, centrally located property, we will sell the old library to a developer of "empty nester" housing that is both greatly in demand and will provide a sound return on the town's investment.
With our town's inclusive zoning, this will even advance us in the direction of achieving a needed next 8-30(g) moratorium.
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Stop scaring seniors and let them hear the truth.