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SoNoCC remodeling ‘on schedule,’ Peña says

NORWALK, Conn. – The framing has been done for the South Norwalk Community Center remodeling project and an inspection is due Thursday, “unofficial” SoNoCC board Chairman Warren Peña said.

The remodeling, paid for in $200,000 of Community Block Development Grant (CDBG) funding approved by the city, is making the center ready for Norwalk Public Schools’ After the Bell program. Peña said everything is on schedule, with Sept. 15 as a “soft date” and Sept. 30 as a “hard date” for completion.

The South Norwalk
The South Norwalk Community Center lobby is being partioned into separate spaces in a remodeling paid for with federal tax dollars.

“We’re looking at Sept. 15 as the date construction is finished. However, with construction there is always, perhaps, a hiccup or something like that. So we’re looking at just a two-week window, just a buffer to give ourselves, before we get fully operational,” Peña said. “Everything is on budget. Everything is on the timeline set for it. So we’re feeling pretty good, we’re excited about where we are at.”

Peña stepped down as SoNoCC board chairman before last week’s primary election as he was running as a candidate to represent the 140th District in the General Assembly. He said at the time he would return as chairman after the election.

“Unofficially it’s happened already, the day after the election,” he said. A board meeting is planned for Monday, he said.

Between 90 and 100 children are expected for the After the Bell program, Peña said. The District 99 students, who do not have a home school, would get 10 to 11 more hours of learning time per week, Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera said in April. The After the Bell program does not begin simultaneously with the school year as students get settled in to their routines first, he said.

Bids for construction came in higher than expected, resulting in a change of plans. Peña said Phase 1 is getting the “meat” done, getting the center’s first floor ready for the partnership with NPS. That includes the construction of classrooms, an upgrade to the bathrooms and the creation of a waiting area for people who are going upstairs into what was the space for Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) that is separate from the classrooms.

The upstairs of the building is open to people looking for energy assistance, a program now being run by Action for Bridgeport Community Development (ABCD). The South Norwalk Community Center offices are also open, and services are being provided, SoNoCC interim director Kelly Robertson said.

Common Council members grilled then-Deputy Director Pat Ferrandino when he came looking for CDBG money last spring, as the CDBG money authorized in 2013 had not been spent yet. Councilman Rich Bonenfant (R-At Large) made reference to that at the recent Planning Committee meeting.

Bonenfant said he had visited the center and was pleased to see construction underway. “The good news is two years’ worth of $100,000 each and they’re actually building something,” Bonenfant said.

The second floor
The second floor at 98 South Main St. has been sealed from the lobby area below after complaints were received about construction dust coming upstairs, SoNoCC board Chairman Warren Peña said.

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