Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Council Approves Purchase of St. Sebastian's School

After testimony from several groups worried about use of CDBG grants to fund the building of a new Senior Center, the Common Council voted in an unusual bipartisan majority to purchase St Sebastian's School for use as a senior center.

Council members also heard support from seniors and veterans in support of the project.

Members of several community organizations who receive Community Block Development Grants (CDBG) expressed concern that their organizations would be shortchanged if CDBG dollars were used for construction of the Senior Center.  Representatives from Russell Library and the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen reminded the Council that paring money from non-profits in difficult financial times  could be disastrous.

Several residents suggest that the proposal to fund the Senior Center was a costly endeavor in difficult financial times and that the measure should come before voters in a referendum.

A half dozen veterans and senior citizens also testified to the need for a home for a new Senior Center and Veteran's museum.

"For the past 30  years every administration who has sat there has said 'We've got to do something for the seniors,'" Senior Service Commissioner Ed Dypa said.  "And nothing has been done.  We've spent 40 years in a single room in Sbona Towers and nothing has changed."

When Democratic members of the Council returned from a caucus in the chamber lobby, it became evident quickly that the Democrats would be supporting the Senior Center, but not unanimously.

Council member Ron Klattenberg spoke passionately about the need for a Senior Center.

"I think it's very, very important," Klattenberg said. "And it's something we have to move on quickly.  We have to act tonight.  The building at St. Sebastian School solves a multitude of problems.  A new building would be nice, but St. Sebastian's is what we can afford."

Klattenberg was joined in support by Council members Daley, Bauer, Loffredo, Pessina, Streeto, Bibisi, Kleckowski.

"What other community our size does not have a senior center," Daley asked.  "This is the opportunity for us to acquire an asset to address a number of needs in the city today."

Daley assured community members that eligible organizations would still be able to compete for CDBG dollars.

Council members Serra, Faulkner, Kasper and Santangelo opposed the purchase on the grounds that financing was questionable.

"I'm not sure what it's going to cost," Santangelo said.  "I'm not sure where the financing is coming from."

After the vote, Mayor Sebastian Giuliano expressed thanks for the support of the purchase, and an understanding of the opposition.

"We've come up with a viable plan that is concrete," Giuliano said.


Anonymous said...

Hey Ed... how about those who spoke regarding fiscal concerns???? For those who requested that the issue be put to a referendum, it is not too late. The Charter, Chapter 111 section 7 provides the voters with the ability to stop this action. See the Middletown website, Government, City Charter tabs. With a little work, those opposing the council's vote can bring the matter to referendum.

David Bauer said...

Anon 11:53 is correct but you have little more than 10 days to collect over 2,000 elector's signatures to invoke this Charter provision.

I appreciate all the fiscal interest and hope it is there at the next budget cycle. The mistakes in operational expenses far outweigh these capital decisions by far.

If the City can't create a good development plan, we can sell the building, maybe even for a profit. Keep your eye(s) on the Building Committee and insist they craft a plan that doesn't waste our tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

The seniors in our town waited long enough. This will now give them a place of their own.
It seems to me more about politics than fiscal concerns. Just saying.

David Bauer said...

Sorry I gave an incorrect figure - you only need about 1,200 valid elector signatures.

al said...

This must mean that taxes aren't going up next year. I didn't know Middletown was so fiscally responsible. How about people getting together and fund raising for a senior center. Take it off the burden of others whose taxes continue to go up year after year. How about placing a request on the tax bill if people would like to voluntarily donate their money to a senior center.

Anonymous said...

For decades St.Sebs never had to pay property taxes that amount should be deducted from the cost the City has to pay the diocese.

Anonymous said...

I agree a purchase but this should toto referendum so dan drew and alike can't use it as a platform against the mayor later on. 1200 signatures is not a lot with holiday on main coming up....

Anonymous said...

St. Sebs making a buck off seniors and Taxpayers. Why not gift it ???

Anonymous said...

What does St. Sebastians Church do for the poor in Middletown? Let homeless sleep in it's basement? Council AA members or let groups like this meet there? The feast is nota community service it's a money maker. Other churches do far more and St. Sebs should not be bailed out. They should be the ones giving back something to Middletown. The church did nothing to help my starving immigrant Italian relatives in the depression who were parishioners. They could donate this to the seniors they owe who gave money to the church all these years.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't we taking cues from Catherine Johnson and saving those old buildings scheduled to be demo'd on Grand St? They are historic and are in a great location for a senior center . As she says in her article they are in good enough condition someone could renovate they for occupancy with little effort. They are already city owned!

Fred In Westfield said...

We should all list our properties as a church so the city can buy it.Sadly enough this vote shows that the incompetent individuals usally run for public office.

Anonymous said...

Someone start the petition !! Ill be first to sign. this should go to referendum. David Bauer is right and the only sensible person on the board.

Anonymous said...

why does Mr. Creative Bonding aka Mr. Serra keep getting elected??