Travis Simms and Ernie Dumas are Democrats representing District B on the Common Council.
We have concerns, comments and questions about the City’s dissolution plan for the South Norwalk Community Center(SoNoCC).
Nearly two years ago, through bankruptcy court, the City purchased Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now/NEON’s interest in the 98 South Main Street building for $125,000. Now the City is in the position to take over the entire building and proposes buying out the SoNoCC’s ownership interest for $300,000 from the $3.5million the City received from the SONO Collection developer General Growth Properties (GGP) and earmarked for South Norwalk.
The SoNoCC’s inability to pay their utility bills since NEON went belly up has been documented. We suspect some of those bills may have been paid by the City, or forgiven by the utility companies. We all should be so lucky.
It has also been noted that the South Norwalk Community Center received over $250,000 in CDBG funding for capital/facilities improvement over the last 4 years. In light of the uncertainties surrounding that building, the money might have been better spent somewhere else. In addition, the Norwalk Public Schools put resources in the building during that time for the afterschool program, After the Bell. Now, the City plans to allocate another $200,000 for needed capital improvements for the same building.
If you add that up, $750,000 could potentially be spent on this building specifically for the South Norwalk Community Center. That total does not include any prior BOE funding.
Why would the City consider paying the SoNoCC $300,000 to buy out their interest of the building? How much money has the City paid for SNCC’s utility bills? How much rental income did SNCC generate? Does the Center still have staff? How were staff paid in the past and how are they being paid now? Who will be the payee on that $300,000 check? How will that $300,000 be used?
The point of the questions is to ask why SoNoCC is getting paid and then being allowed to stay in the building? Perhaps, to be fair, the City should pay SoNoCC the same amount of money they paid for the NEON portion of the building.
Lastly, the City likes to form special committees. We would urge the same approach for the vast redevelopment plan for South Norwalk, by forming a district oversight committee. Why not give people who will be directly impacted a real seat at the table and opportunity to be a part of the decision making process?
We are sure it is no surprise that our vote tonight will be no to giving the South Norwalk Community Center, or whatever they may call the organization these days, any additional funds. We respectfully request answers to our questions.