Steering Committee presents proposal for Kearns School building

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Representing the Kearns Community Center Steering Committee, Alicia Newton and Elliot Altomare presented the group’s proposal to the town at the July 16 Board of Selectmen meeting. To meet its mission statement, (“a place to connect, empower and sustain our community”), the committee has produced a proposal that is designed to succeed without tax support, meaning that the town would no longer be responsible for the cost of maintaining the building. All proceeds from the programs at the center would cycle back into the center’s operations.

Director of Community Development Abby Kenyon introduced Newton and Altomare and gave a brief summary of the proposal for the cross-generational, all-inclusive community center that is not intended to duplicate what is already available at the town’s Senior Center and other recreational facilities, but to add to them. Programs for adult day care, veterans, people with disabilities, the agricultural community, local arts programming, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities for youth would be instituted. Kenyon noted that, with the selectmen’s approval, the plan would be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Finance.

Newton and Altomare went on to explain that the steering committee is having conversations with people from the Senior Center, Holcomb Farm, the Recreation Department and others to reassure them that the Community Center would be supplementing, not competing, with pre-existing programs. It would fill gaps, provide unmet needs.

The plan intends to ensure the first year’s viability by raising $2 million to cover renovation needs, the move-in and the first year’s operating expenses. Renovation would include some interior wall removal, electrical upgrades, bathroom upgrades, kitchen upgrades, painting and flooring, among other things. A back-up industrial generator would be installed and the parking lot lights would be improved. The school’s administration offices are perfectly adequate for the center’s staff.

The school’s gymnasium would become the 300-person capacity multi-purpose community room, and the auditorium’s stage would be one of several performance areas in the building. There would be specific areas dedicated to veterans, adult day care and teens. Special rooms would include a combination studio space and gallery for the Granby Artists Association, a nature classroom, a music room with instruments, a recording studio, a workshop with sewing and quilting machines and an area to fix broken non-electronic household items, a wood shop, and a computer room including 3-D printers and lasers. Conference rooms will be available for rent.

Membership in the Community Center would not be required to use the facility but would provide additional benefits such as discounts on program fees and invitations to members-only events.

Annual operating costs would include $60,000 for an executive director, $30,000 for a part-time coordinator and $40,000 for a custodian. Utilities, supplies and maintenance to the roof and winter parking lot would require slightly under $200,000, bringing the annual operating cost to a little over $327,000.

An income of almost $262,000 would result from the various programs and rental of various spaces, as well as from a proposed cafe. Initially, the cafe would provide coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic drinks and some light snacks. The plan calls for farmers to bring produce (for which they will be paid) and that produce to be made into soups or other meals for sale. The expected proceeds would eventually amount to perhaps $200 a day.

The center would be run by a board of directors, some of whom might come from the current steering committee. The proposed nine members would include a salaried executive director who reports to the board of directors and is responsible for continuing to meet the mission statement and for fiscal management of the facility. A paid, part-time volunteer coordinator would connect those with needed skills to the various programs in the center. This person would report to the executive director, as would those hired to maintain and repair the physical plant.

The $2 million required for start-up would be raised by community donations and support from groups that might include The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, (which has already expressed interest), the Granby Community Fund, Simsbury Bank, United Healthcare, Newman’s Own and the Greater Hartford Arts Council, as well as several others. The Town of Granby will lease the building to the Center for $1 a year for a 10-year period.

The steering committee’s timeline for this project includes receiving town approval by December 2018, raising the $2 million by June 2019 and completing renovation and construction by October 2019. A November 2019 opening is projected.

A report fully detailing all aspects of this project is available in the town hall.

The members of the steering committee are: Elliott Altomare, AnneMarie Cox, Laura Eden, Sandra Fischer, Justine Ginsberg, Dawn Karlson, Alicia Newton, Melissa O’Brien, Rozzalynn Sullivan-Buono and Ann Wilhelm.