NORWALK, Conn. – An investment to help turn the South Norwalk Community Center into an educational facility for South Norwalk children moved forward Monday, with some caveats.
The Planning Committee voted to advance a $100,000 allotment in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for Phase II renovations at the center, although the CDBG-funded Phase I renovations have not begun. The money for additional renovations would make the center able to accommodate Board of Education after school programming in September.
The vote was done in spite of no paperwork yet being submitted by the BOE spelling out what will be done in the center.
Committee members said it will be possible to pull the money back, if necessary. There is also a 30-day public comment period and a public hearing scheduled for May 1.
The funds, which come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), are pending BOE paperwork. Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss said that would come in Wednesday.
South Norwalk Community Center (SoNoCC) Deputy Director Pat Ferrandino said the board needs to vote on the plan.
“Our understanding is it is pretty much a clear road,” he said.
The community is on board for “this type of programming,” but the venue has not been disclosed, he said.
The center was awarded $100,000 in CDBG funding last year to fund new bathrooms and other improvements.
“The plans are completed by the architect,” he said. “The engineer will need another week and then the bidding stage. a two-week phase, then construction will begin.”
That work has been held up partly because of issues with Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON), which shared 98 South Main St. with SoNoCC.
Ferrandino said one door is still locked, but NEON has been providing access when needed. “We don’t see that they will in any way attempt to block us,” he said.
The second $100,000 in CDBG funds will pay for classrooms, he said. The 3,000-square-foot multipurpose room, which has not been renovated in 30 years, will not be touched with the CDBG funding, Ferrandino said.
Title 1 funding is expected to pay for the BOE programs, Ferrandino said. It is expected that there will be no fees for the children, he said. The city has recommended funding a grant of $17,500, which would pay for Lego robotics, he said.
The center is seeking outside funding to renovate the commercial kitchen, he said. It would be used to teach nutritional programs in collaboration with The Friends of Ryan Park and make use of the community garden outside the back door.
“The amount given this year will be satisfactory to operate the programs as anticipated with Norwalk Public Schools,” he said.
Plans for the center total $600,000. That includes outside recreational facilities, he said.
Committee Chairman Doug Hempstead said the tentative $100,000 was being set for the 30-day public comment period and the money could be withdrawn if the board of ed backs out.