For those keeping score, it looks like the unbudgeted shuffle costs are continuing to rise. On Sept. 20, the Darien Commission on Aging wrote to the Board of Selectmen requesting that a new ADA-compliant elevator be built at the Mather Senior Center.
The commission recognized that the cost of such a new elevator would be "significant." Indeed, the commission's chairman stated that the "price tag of our request will surely be daunting." The commission's chairman further advised that the commission has "reason to believe that the existing freight elevator cannot be retrofitted to meet current state and federal standards for the Mather Center's intended use."
The selectmen have not yet discussed this request, but the Commission on Aging is supposed to be the town's expert on aging issues. So, the question becomes: How did the town plan and build a new senior center without knowing that the existing elevator "cannot be retrofitted to meet current state and federal standards?"
If the Commission on Aging is correct, then the town will have no choice but to build the new elevator and add this to the other shuffle costs that were not included in its $6.9 million budget.
These costs include the demolition of the old senior center which has been estimated to be as much as $300,000 due to asbestos in the building and the cost of extending the natural gas line from the Post Road to the new school administration offices at 35 Leroy Ave. for $130,000.
Because of the arcane referendum rules in Darien's Charter, the Stevenson administration proceeded with the Shuffle against the will of a majority of voters who voted in the December 2011 referendum. Many voted "no" out of concern that the $6.9 million renovation cost plus the $4.2 million paid to buy 35 Leroy made this project too expensive. Now it appears that unbudgeted costs, which either were known or should have been known in 2011, are making the project even more expensive.
Darien's residents have a right to ask why the costs of an ADA-compliant elevator, the demolition of the Edgerton Senior Center and the installation of the gas line were not included in the cost of the shuffle presented to the town in 2011. New school building projects are now being planned for Tokeneke and Royal schools and it is important that this not happen again.