Teen center moves cautiously forward, new location under consideration
Town Councilor Barbara Szepatowski recused herself from voting on items concerning the teen center after Councilman Bill Kelly suggested that she was spearheading the project at Monday night's council meeting. Szepatowski acknowledged that she was involved in moving the project forward and announced that an opportunity for an ideal location for the center has presented itself.
"The office above Paws and Claws and the House of Pizza that used to house my environmental company has become available," Szepatowski said. "The owner, George Dolos, was asking $1,600 per month for the facility, but compromised and brought the price down to $1,500 per month," she said.
The prospective 50by 40foot, four-room suite at 23 Narragansett Ave. includes a fully operational kitchen. The fire department has approved its use for 20 to 25 teens at a time. Larger gatherings will have to take place at the Community Center on Conanicus Avenue, a short walk away. "Fire, handicapped accessibility, and all state and municipal codes must be met before we can do much else," Kelly said. "We also have to put the matter before the zoning board to get a specialuse permit," he added.
Councilman Michael Schnack, Kelly, and Council Vice President Julio Di Giando, who chaired the meeting in Town Council President David Long's absence, all expressed concerns about the funding for the rent. "We have $500 a month committed through private sources," Szepatowski said.
"We also have to consider funds for utilities and maintenance," DiGiando suggested. "We're seeking donations for private funds for the remainder of the rent," Szepatowski said. "The kids will paint the place and maintain it themselves," she added.
"If the remainder of the fiscal year is 10 months, that means we're committing the town to a $15,000 lease for which we don't have $10,000 of the funding," Kelly said.
"I think there are a number of things that need to be discussed before we approve anything," DiGiando added.
"If we don't act quickly we could lose this opportunity," Szepatowski said.
"Then so be it," Schnack said. "I don't think we should proceed without thinking this thing through. There are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be talked about and answered before we make any commitments," he added.
After a lengthy discussion, DiGiando recommended taking the matter before the zoning board to review the property and consider its possibilities for a special-use permit. "We should send the matter to the zoning board without making a commitment for approving a lease. We must make that very clear," Di Giando said. "We can't sign a lease unless the facility has been approved by the zoning board, the fire department, and the insurance company, anyway," he said.
"And we can't commit to anything unless we identify the source of funding," Kelly added.
The council voted 4-0 to approve sending the matter to the zoning board for review. The matter was also put on the agenda for the Sept 25 council meeting council for further discussion. Since the zoning board does not meet until Sept. 26, further decisions by the council cannot be made on the matter until a later date.