The South Windsor Town Council Thursday evening declined to add to the November ballot a sixth capital improvements referendum question that, if approved by voters, would have expanded the Charles N. Enes Community Center.
The proposed measure, which was defeated by a 5-3 vote, called for a $1.5 million expansion of up to 10,000 square feet to the community center, which currently houses both the senior center, the family and youth services department and the parks and recreation department.
At a regular meeting Tuesday, the council to voters in November.
No one at the council’s emergency meeting Thursday claimed that there wasn’t a need for space at the community center, which oftentimes sees multiple agencies competing for rooms for programming and other services.
Mayor Tom Delnicki said that he did not support the proposed community center expansion because the project had not been properly vetted like those contained in the five approved questions that will appear on the November ballot.
“I too want to see something done to the community center,” he said. “But I want to see something successful done. We have to do it right. … In this one, we don’t know what we’re getting. We don’t know what $1.5 million will buy us.”
Indeed, the $1.5 million figure was derived from what a 10,000-foot expansion would cost the town at $150 per square foot, something that Town Manager Matt Galligan said was not guaranteed once the project was put out to bid.
Galligan said that the 10,000-square foot estimate was at the high-end, and that the town could wind up with something like a 6,000 to 8,000-square foot expansion.
In addition, Delnicki said that he was concerned that, if the measure failed in November, voters would simply dismiss proposed work on the community center as a matter of course; a $3 million referendum to expand the senior center portion of the community center failed to pass in 2010.
“How many times are we going to bring it up before people tune it out?” Delnicki asked. “That’s the last thing I want to see.”
But two of the measure’s supporters - Councilors Keith Yagaloff and Ed Havens - said that the expansion should be left to the voters despite Delnicki’s concerns.
“My personal feeling is five questions is too many,” Havens said. “[But] the public is a lot smarter than we are. … It’s not our decision, it’s their decision and I’m going to leave it to them.”
Yagaloff, one of three members of the minority Democratic party on the council, said that the council should approve the measure, as Democrats generally supported other capital improvements that they otherwise may have disagreed with to show the public there was a united front with the Republican majority on the projects.
“I think it’s important to address all the needs of the community in this referendum cycle,” Yagaloff said.
But Delnicki said that the best way to move forward was to refer the matter to the South Windsor public building committee to see what is in the town’s best interests with the community center’s expansion.
In the end, Yagaloff and Havens were joined by Councilor Jan Snyder as the only three who supported the measure. Councilor Dr. Saud Anwar, who initially proposed the community center expansion at the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday as an add-on to the town’s renovation referendum question before calling for an emergency meeting, was not present. Delinicki was joined by Cary Prague, Deputy Mayor Gary Bazzano, Cindy Beaulieu and Kevin McCann in voting against the proposal.
Still, after the meeting, Delnicki said that he would call for a council subcommittee comprising one Democrat (Delnicki specifically mentioned Anwar) and one Republican to work with the public building committee to see what $1.5 million would accomplish in expanding the community center.
While that represents some progress, the move effectively means that any potential renovation to the community center will have to wait at least one more budget cycle.