New Fairfield could study a community center with funds from ARPA

NEW FAIRFIELD – A place where residents can congregate, socialize and perhaps participate in recreational activities can come true – at least that’s the idea behind one of the proposed uses of federal COVID relief money – 19 of the city.

A $25,000 feasibility study to explore possible development of a local community center is among 10 projects voters will consider paying for with the $4.1 million given to New Fairfield through American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.

There are locals who are “very interested” in the concept of a community center, according to First Selectman Pat Del Monaco.

“It’s kind of a problem that’s been around for a while,” she said at the Feb. 28 meeting of the task force formed to find ways to spend the city’s ARPA funds.

The $25,000 requested for the study would be used to organize meetings with community members and stakeholders, assess potential sites and “see what the needs, desires and availability are to build a community center”, according to the city engineer. Antonio Iadarola.

The scope of the study has yet to be determined, he said, but capturing what residents want in a community center and considering everyone’s thoughts and ideas will be a “critical” part of it. .

“The most important part of the study is community participation so that we end up with the best planned and operated community center,” he said Monday. “This will allow us to plan the space and develop a building design…and eventually see where to locate a building to accommodate (things like) size, parking and septic tank.”

At the New Fairfield ARPA Public Forum in May, Del Monaco read a letter from Social Services Director Cindy White, which noted various ways a community center could benefit the town.

A community center could offer programs such as tai chi, yoga, meditation and other types of stress reduction classes and provide educational workshops, adult education classes and space for groups to support meet.

“One thing that Cindy brought up from the Prevention Council’s perspective is that there are very few private spaces in town where they can offer advice,” Del Monaco said.

A community center could also serve as a safe place where local youth can gather and socialize.

“There’s been a lot of talk about providing opportunities for our young people…trying to provide a place where they can safely come together,” Iadarola said at the city’s ARPA public forum on June 28. .

One of the goals of the proposed feasibility study would be to determine what services the center would provide, as not all community centers are alike.

They can be – as Iadarola put it – “dynamically different”, offering different services and different opportunities for residents.

Community centers in some cities “look more like recreation centers and have lots of sports facilities,” Del Monaco noted, while others “look more like gathering spaces, meeting spaces and auditoriums.”

She said the plan for New Fairfield would be to find out “exactly what our community members envision as a community center and then look at properties and sites around town where we think we can locate the type of facility that the community wants. ”

According to Iadarola, the completion of the downtown New Fairfield sewer project – for which the ARPA task force is requesting $1.6 million for the design and approval of a connection to the Danbury Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant – would make finding a location “much more feasible”.

In addition to the community center feasibility study and sewer design work, ARPA projects proposed by New Fairfield include:

  • $700,000 for the reconstruction of the New Fairfield City Park Beach House.

  • $615,000 for improving public safety.

  • $455,000 for renovations to the Company A fire hall.

  • $265,000 for the pandemic bonus for health and public safety personnel.

  • $150,000 for small business grants.

  • $150,000 for storm water drainage from the Ball Pond watershed.

  • $65,000 for a fire marshal vehicle.

  • $25,000 for an emergency housing fund.

Voters will soon decide whether or not ARPA money will be used to fund the projects. A special town meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on October 11, for residents to set a date for a referendum on the proposed projects.

Information on proposed projects is available at https://bit.ly/newfairfieldARPAprojects.

Jill E. Washington