The former library site at 35 Leroy
While the Board of Selectmen has not officially voted on the best way to move forward with the relocation of the senior center, the discussion at Monday night's meeting revolved around a two-step shift. This two-fold plan includes moving the Board of Education's central offices from its current home at Town Hall to 35 Leroy Ave., and filling the BOE's vacancy with the senior center, which is currently located at 30 Edgerton St.
It's the plan that was labeled "Option 2" at last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, and comes with a $3.4 million price tag, according to the Senior Center Relocation Feasibility Report, prepared by Beinfield Architecture PC. The first phase of the shift would take place in January 2011 if the staggered approach to capital projects is approved, according to Republican First Selectman David Campbell. It would be the first of four projects in the overall lineup, Campbell said.
"It's just common sense on when things can be built most efficiently," he said Tuesday morning. "The Board of Ed would be moving into a finished building. We're building walls and redoing the air-conditioning and the heat system. It's simple. There's nothing except replacing some windows on the outside of the building."
The building at 35 Leroy was originally built in the 1950s.
"In the beginning, it was thought that $190,000 would suffice, but, as usual in construction projects, the figure kept rising until $225,000 was the final amount," Betsy Stilwell Peterson wrote in the Darien Library's 1994 book "So Many Friends."
According to Peterson's book, ground was broken for the structure in November 1956; the library opened its doors at the Leroy Avenue location on Sept. 29, 1957.
In the time since, there have been two additions and renovations, which took place in 1974 and 1984, according to the Beinfield report. The 1974 addition brought additional office and stack space to the library, as well as a children's room.
"The last addition was the room in the back," Library Director Louise Berry said Tuesday. "A reading room, and the main floor restrooms and elevator."
The additions increased the square-footage of the building to its current size: 24,218 square-feet of floor space, according to the Beinfield Report. Currently, the Board of Education uses a portion of the lower level of the Town Hall annex, which takes up a total of 16,794 square feet, according to the report.
While the schools' office space would not utilize all the square footage afforded by the facility, the extra room presents some interesting options, Campbell said during Monday night's meeting.
"Where I get hung up is that 35 Leroy is a lot of space for the Board of Education. I've had a lot of people express concern to me that an organization like the Board of Ed, while they do a great job, they tend to grow into their space," Democratic Selectman David Bayne said Tuesday. "By sending them off to an area independent of the rest of the Town, over time the administration will attempt to build up to fill its space."
Campbell has some ideas about how to utilize the extra space.
"One of the ideas is to move the probate court over there," he said. The town's probate court will be merging with New Canaan's later this year; officials have not yet announced whether the new, larger probate court will reside in Darien or New Canaan.
"The Darien Housing Authority would like to get out of the basement here," Campbell said. "There are some municipal uses in [Town Hall] that lend themselves to being over there."
He also said some privately funded, non-municipal uses could be well-suited in the old library building, though this would require the town taxable bonding for the space, rather than tax-exempt bonding. This could increase interest rates on the bonding from 3 percent to 4.5 percent, Campbell said.