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South Windsor Residents Weigh in on Proposed Rink/Rec Complex/Pool Project

Some in favor, others opposed to $10.5 million project at Evergreen Walk that would be constructed by a 63-20 corporation.

About a dozen South Windsor residents weighed in at the Town Council’s meeting on Monday on the proposed $10.5 million rink/recreation complex/pool project.

The results were mixed.

Several residents said the project would bring some much-needed life to The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk, as well as add to the town’s recreation options.

Rob O’Connor, the co-chair of the South Windsor Walk and Wheel Ways group, spoke in favor of the project, including the portion that would add to the town’s trail system.

“It’s not just an ice skating rink,” said O’Connor, noting that the proposal includes a pool, basketball courts and a recreation complex with offices, which would free up the Charles N. Enes Community Center to be fully dedicated to the senior center.

Craig Zimmerman said that South Windsor is the only town in the area that does not have an indoor pool. In addition, Zimmerman said that the town lacks a public, full-size gym - outside of the one at the high school that may or may not be regulation because of the short distance from the basketball baseline to the wall.

“We need a full-size gym,” Zimmerman said.

Al Larson said that the pool is a necessity, as the town’s swimming and diving teams are highly competitive and need a home venue in South Windsor.

“The 63-20 corporation is not something to be feared,” Larson said.

But other members of the public outwardly opposed the project, saying that allowing it to move forward through the use of a 63-20 corporation would short circuit the referendum process, in addition to adding to the tax burden in town.

“What in the world are we thinking?” John Mitchell asked rhetorically. “Our taxes are high enough at this point.”

Mike Sullivan, without openly opposing the project, said that the town had other priorities like school renovations.

Sullivan said that the question shouldn’t be can the town do the project or how will it be accomplished, but “why is this a priority?”

John Bassilakis said that if the compex is developed it should be done either with private funds or through a referendum.

“The 63-20 shouldn’t happen,” Bassilakis said.

Don Gonsalves was even more blunt.

“I find this absolutely unbelievable,” he said. “In my opinion [a few people] are trying to ramrod this through. I will personally get the votes for a referendum.”

No decision was made during the council’s meeting on the project, as the council is waiting for more information from Town Manager Matthew Galligan.

Ruth Bortolan November 21, 2012 at 03:55 PM
How did you come up with the figure of 47% of the town being for a community center at Evergreen?
keith yagaloff November 21, 2012 at 04:24 PM
The information to assess this project is "not out there." I have not been provided any information since a preliminary proposal on October 15th. At the last town council meeting the town manager said he hasn't received any additional information either. I am also concerned about the personal comments made about the mayor, town councilors, the owner of the existing rink and residents who have differing opinions. The plan calls for a long term relationship between the town and local hockey groups, 20-30 years depending on the bonding period. Can the town work effectively with people who are going to resort to personal attacks when they hear an opinion they don't agree with? Is that the kind of long term relationship we are looking at for the next 2-3 decades? My expectation was that the town council would be getting financial details to make an assesment of the viability of the project. That hasn't happened thus far. Now I am forced to question the potential for a postiive long term relationship.
Tony Fornuto November 21, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Unfortunately, this forum becomes an echo chamber that this pro-project group thinks will further their cause. What is the fear with giving this a good public hearing?? Why must we just drop everything and follow their lead? I will reinterate, funding of this project or any like project through a 63-20 is inappropriate and is just being used as a tactic to avoid a public referendum. This particular project is better suited for private investment. If these folks that are so gung-ho to do this project must have their hockey rink and pool, then let them form a capital firm, find partners and build it themselves. If it is as sound an investment as they say, there should be dozens of takers.
Tom Lines December 17, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Sorry, I have to leave one more comment. in my 30 years here, I can only recall ONE rec item approved by referendum. After two defeats, the Rec Center was approved ONLY after eliminating a proposed gym. Basically that rendered the center into meeting places. And with HS referendum, the BOE removed the pool bc they feared it kill the vote. Shortly put, this town will never vote for a recreation or athletic proposal. 4-5 years ago, the CIAC (Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference) had a committee who spent a lot of time evaluating our HS facilities and programs. The final report said that, clearly, that SW did not have enough facilities for HS sports and gym classes, but that that the ones that existed were in very poor shape. They actually used the word "ragged". The deal was that SW was supposed to come up with a plan and be reinspected 2 years. But, as expected, it died on the vine. Surprise. The Town Council's job is to represent the citizens who elected them. However, when ANYONE is elected to office, they also have a job to do what's right, even if it isn't popular with some citizens. Otherwise, why have a council? We could just vote on every single thing. This town has long planned poorly for future capital improvements (vs a town like Glastonbury and many others.) This center is an idea that should be explored further, modified if needed, and voted on by the TC as a CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT project. Why? Because that's exactly what it is. And that's your job.
Tom Lines December 17, 2012 at 08:27 PM
To Mr Fornato, This is not an echo chamber. We have NO children left on town. None of us has ever played hockey - we dont even have skates. I do not know any member or the hockey board, not one. We dont even know any families that are hockey enthusiasts. And guess what? I really don't like hockey at all! But my point is that is clearly documented that our athletic and rec facilities are just not up to even the most basic standards. Yes, this may raise my taxes a few dollars, but it's clear that someone (TC) has to have the guts to make decisions that are 'right' and not necessarily popular. Let me ask you, does SW have ANYTHING that will bring others to our town besides Evergreen Walk? No. This proposal is clearly about our KIDS, but SW citezens and merchants will benefit as well! South Windsor is a pleasant town to live in, a bedroom community. But isnt our Quality of Life important to you? I believe that SW is now a "What's in it for me?" town. People dont vote for schools, sometimes with the reasoning that "My kids are all grown up. Why should I Guess what? It's our responsibility to! A senior may say "we want a new senior facility' but they vote against anything else. And yes, parents who have kids in school or sports are not improne to making similar self interest decisions. Tony, Your parents didn't even vote that way I'll bet. They knew a citizens responsibility was to consider all kids, not just their own. This is the way it used to be, and should be now.

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