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Chalk Hill: 'We Need a Plan. We Still Don't Have a Plan'

Volunteers want Chalk Hill School to be used as a community center, but need direction on how the building will be used.

Close to 40 children attended the first Teen Night at Chalk Hill School on Friday, playing pool and basketball, and taking part in a scavenger hunt — with most making colorful stripes in their hair with chalk.

"They had so much fun," said Kelly Plunkett, one of the organizers.

Fellow organizer Jennifer Aguilar received an email from one mother telling her that her daughter came home saying "it was way better than the YMCA’s teen night," according to Plunkett.

"We got calls texts and emails from parents — all saying their kids had so much fun and thanking us for putting it together," she said. "One's daughter had three texts from friends the next morning saying, 'You have to go next week.'"

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Though it was a benefit for Project Warmth, a group of parents hope this and similar community programs can raise the type of revenue to justify keeping the 43-year-old building open.

Plunkett, Aguilar and a group of volunteers garnered 371 signatures to an online petition asking people if they want to keep Chalk Hill open. But most agree that in order to generate enough revenue to break even with expenses as town officials demand, a major tenant must be part of the solution.

First Selectman Steve Vavrek has until June 12 to present a financial plan to the Capital Infrastructure Facility Asset Planning Subcommittee (CIFAP).

"It's going okay," Vavrek said last week. "Everyone is concerned over what the building will be. If the building is going to cost us 'X' more money to do something, I think people would agree it would not be a good idea."

The first selectman said there are some vacant commercial spaces in town and that he will not support putting businesses in Chalk Hill at the expense of those places, which he called "more of a priority."

"Do we need a community center?" Vavrek asked. "I would love to have a community center. I would love to have something like Edmond Town Hall. It's all about the finances."

Vavrek has shown Chalk Hill to several potential suitors, including the YMCA and Bridgeport and Danbury hospitals.

"I'm fairly confident we can get some numbers in," he said of the upcoming CIFAP meeting. "I want to get the community involved. I commend the volunteers, but we have to go through the process. Things have to be done the right way."

The first selectman was alluding to the fact that any uses other than what Chalk Hill is zoned for — residential/farming — will need approval from the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Vavrek said he plans to reach out to Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, whose town had transformed its former high school into a town use.

"As a town, we're trying to assure the citizens if the building is open, it will be the right move for the taxpayers," Vavrek said.

Frustration Mounts

Plunkett, Aguilar and Dawn Ryan, owner of the Monroe Early Learning Center, a private daycare already housed in Chalk Hill, held a group meeting in the auditorium of the old school last Wednesday night.

They went over a revised spreadsheet of projected revenue from programs by businesses who have already expressed interest. The women believe a minimum of $230,000 a year must be generated and estimate uses to bring in $229,252 in 2012-13, $263,835 in 2013-14 and $268,135 in 2014-15.

Parks & Recreation Dir. Frank Cooper, whose department offices are in Chalk Hill, also attended the meeting, along with several townspeople including Kim Henderson of Studio on the Move and Frank Bent (who had served as interim Parks & Recreation director).

Town officials in attendance included Council Chairwoman Enid Lipeles, Council Vice Chairwoman Debra Heim, Councilwoman Debra Dutches, Councilwoman Dee Dee Martin, Councilman Nick Kapoor, Board of Finance member Ted Quinlan, Planning & Zoning Vice Chairman Pat O'Hara and EMS Commission Chairman Dennis Condon.

"As a mom, I really don't want this building to go anywhere," said Henderson, who hopes to hold classes at Chalk Hill.

Plunkett discussed the strategy of approaching established businesses in town about holding workshops at the former school. But Cooper said there may be problems using names on the spreadsheet, should other businesses feel they were left out.

Plunkett said the group of volunteers were using names to show credibility to members of the Town Council and Board of Finance. Aguilar added, "We were told by the Town Council they want to see names behind the numbers."

"I don't think our goal should be to tell Mr. Vavrek or Mr. Cooper what should be there," Aguilar added. "We just want to bring forth that it can be done. There are people in town who want to come forward."

Some at the meeting expressed frustration over the process not being clear enough, and Martin suggested having a tri-board meeting with the Town Council, Board of Finance and Planning & Zoning Commission.

Need for a Business Plan

When talking about the spreadsheet of uses for Chalk Hill, Condon said, "Basically, this is more of a wish list. A concept list. It hasn't been vetted by Planning & Zoning or legal."

Cooper said a business plan must include goals.

"I asked the first selectman, 'How will you come up with a business plan when you don't know what you want yet?'" Cooper said.

Quinlan said the only goal is to be "revenue neutral". He offered to assist the volunteers in drafting a business plan.

When Vavrek had spoken to the Board of Finance about Chalk Hill, Quinlan said, "The first selectman said this thing could be great. We said, 'We need a plan.' We still don't have a plan."

Lipeles said Vavrek is under pressure from both sides on the Chalk Hill issue. "There are people who are against it in town," she said of those who want to "mothball" the school to save money.

Nevertheless, she said the first selectman must be the one to present a plan "and the Board of Finance will make the decision."

get_real May 18, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Well that sure is interesting Jim L., because that is not what the documents in Town Hall say from Town Council record. The daycare service was contracted for municipal employees, not as a business tenant to the public. Evidently this business decided to change the rules, and Town Hall is not paying attention. A contract is a legal, binding instrument. I would say that constitutes the truth. End of story.
jim laguardia May 18, 2012 at 07:45 PM
OMG..... people are unreal, going to town hall to look up contracts??? if someone tells you it is raining outside would you go to your dvr to prove them wrong by showing them the forcast from the night before??? or would you simply look outside?? IT IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!!!!
Joe May 18, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Understood gentleman it is NOW a daycare open to the public. A few questions for you guys: How long was this daycare in operation at Chalk Hill as a daycare for town employees only. Were there daycare's in Jockey Hollow and Masuk also for town employees? And lastly can I relocate our offices to Chalk Hill at the same rental rate as the Daycare?
get_real May 18, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Point is that it is not supposed to be legally. Get it!
get_real May 18, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Point exactly Joe. Some slow learners on here.
Joe May 19, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Jim, Steve, any answers to my questions? If not Steve please call the daycare Monday morning and report back to us with the answers. Thanks.
Joey May 19, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Too many people commenting with no life. Gotta love the people who have no children of daycare age complaining about a daycare. What a riot! The senior center needs to have some fun games to keep these losers off the forum. Joe, Get Real, Monroe Taxpayer, isn't there a shuffleboard setup at the senior center you could play. How about a knitting class or bird watching? It makes me laugh out loud to think about you guys sitting around all day complaining about taxes. Must be funny to hear your complaints in person.
Joe May 19, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Umm Joey, we as a family made a decision to have my wife stay home with my children. This was of course not with financial implications. No handouts here. Wouldn't change a thing though. Actually have a great life, just a little tired of paying taxes and funding other peoples retirements. Keep drinking the Koolaid Joey, November is not far away.
monroe taxpayer May 19, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Its is very interesting that when observations are made and fair questions are asked, the response is always an attack or smear. It appears they simply do not want the facts to be known or discussed. Doesn't that just speak volumes about the subject,, the judgement and character of those involved. .
jim laguardia May 19, 2012 at 12:05 PM
ok this is my last post on here and you can check the ones above my ONE AND ONLY POINT was that it is not a daycare for town employees !!!! and if any one still questions that the comments on here get people to believe something just because they read it here, this is all the proof you need.... what it was in the past what it pays for rent what it will be in the future i dont argue, again my ONE AND ONLY point was it is not for town employees only
Joe May 19, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Please Jim, don't leave us without answering any questions. I'll venture a guess you are well informed yet can't find the courage to provide any information and discuss it There is no need to for you to "take your ball and go home". Once again to Jim and others: How long did the daycare operate in Chalk Hill School prior to becoming open to the public? Was there also daycare's in Jockey Hollow and Masuk? If so how long were they in operation? Assuming they were for a period of time how were they accounted for in the education budget. Was the "daycare" shown as a line item? My guess is it was buried in the salaries category until it was exposed. Jim,you can run away, make personal attacks and belabor a point that the daycare is now open to the public but the fact remains you refuse to answer my simple direct questions so perhaps since you have nothing further to offer it is best you leave this discussion to us. Ciao.
Ride the lightning May 19, 2012 at 02:29 PM
The BOE did not fund the daycare when it was at Masuk. It paid for itself.
Joe May 19, 2012 at 02:35 PM
How much was the rent for the daycare? What was the cost for the daycare per child? I'm sure glad I don't own one of the private daycare's in town!
Joe May 20, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Since nobody seems to have answers to my questions I found an article right here on the patch that answers my questions. Now I know why nobody provided any inmformation. http://monroe.patch.com/articles/daycare-center-wants-to-re-open-at-chalk-hill#comments Seems this little sweetheart deal has been going on for 10 years for teachers and police. You can all it non profit, self sustaining all you want but when rent is below market value and all utilities are free you are joking. The new deal is 7.50 / s.f. with free utilities? WOW! Did this show as a line item on the BOE budget every year? And Joey, not a senior citizen here but i sure hope you have a little more respect for your parents and grandparents than you show here.
Steve Kirsch May 20, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Joe, all that article says is that the $7.50 per sq ft was proposed. It says nothing about what was approved and in the final contract. Why don't you go over to town hall or contact the first selectman and ask for a copy of the contract and see what is really in it.
Joey May 20, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Joe: why are you so obsessed with the daycare? I think you need a hobby. Is this how you spend your time? Obsessing over daycare in town? Sounds a little pathological.
Joe May 20, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Plenty of hobbies Joey, heading out on the boat on this beautiful day. You must be a public sector employee because when we were asleep at the wheel during the 80's and 90's the public sector was negotiating outrageous benefit and pension plans for themselves. Most in the private sector have to fund their own retirement packages via a 401K. The public sector has benefits that far exceed anything available it the private sector. Now you support subsidized daycare as another benefit? No obsession here, just one of many citizens who are tired of paying for the public sector lifestyle and retirement.
Joey May 20, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Joe: your obsession with daycare is a little bizarre. It has nothing to do with your taxes. It paid for itself. You have no children of daycare age. Why are you so concerned? I think you need something healthy to occupy your mind.
Joe May 20, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Just another benefit for you and public sector Joey. No obsession about daycare here again, just tired of supporting the public sector. How about the $25M retaining bonuses Malloy bestowed upon the state workers recently. Heaven forbid we would lose any of that talent.
Joey May 20, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Joe: I believe the people who sent their kids to the daycare paid fair market value. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. I'm not a state worker or fan of Malloy. I think Malloy should have cut more state workers.
Joe May 20, 2012 at 10:24 PM
What did they pay?
Sensible June 07, 2012 at 12:13 PM
FYI- I am NOT a Monroe town employee and I am sending my child to this daycare. It is open to the public.
Sam I am June 23, 2012 at 01:12 AM
To Jim Laguardia, we have an agreement in our neighborhood that if anyone needs speedy emergency services (i.e. having a heart attack) we will put the person in a car because waiting for the ambulance that is regularly sitting in a PARTICULAR person's driveway on a regular basis instead of at the ambulance station on Jockey Hollow, where it belongs and is a central location to almost every destination in town could be CATASTROPHIC. Most people who ride emt, SIT AT THE DESGINATED ambulance station in case a call comes in, not at a house across town. If volunteers can't do the job correctly, they need to step OFF!! Yes, we do notice these discrepancies in town and many people have zero confidence in the emergency personell in this town.
Mary Poppins June 23, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Not trying to stir the pot but all these comments got me curious about the daycare. Had a tough time finding Monroe Early Learning Center info on the web, (it is early for me..so maybe it is right in front of my face) but here is what I found ( a pdf from MELC) : "January 2012 Dear Monroe Board of Education and Town of Monroe Staff Member: We are very happy to be able to continue to offer Monroe Early Learning Center for child care and preschool. This center was created and designed for Board of Education and Town of Monroe Staff." The pdf also includes a notice of intention in which I would indicate if I am a school or town employee and it is for the 2012-2013 yr. As a non town employee parent looking for daycare, I can't find any info on how I can send my child there. Would I pay the same rate as an employee? Will my tuition be broken into 22 pay periods as it is for employees?
jim laguardia June 23, 2012 at 01:07 PM
STALK MUCH ???!!!???
Christine E. June 23, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Is this true?
Sam i am June 24, 2012 at 03:24 AM
No, just observant, especially of those residents who think they are above the laws and regulations in a community.
j June 25, 2012 at 11:18 AM
This is what really happens?? You have got to be kidding me! That is probably why it took the ambulance 17 minutes to get to my house....Which I think is unacceptable because I live 5-7 minutes away from the ambulance garage at the most. I lost a family member possibly due to negligence of this. I think I have to possibly investigate this further.
jim laguardia June 25, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Christine i will address you on this, what they are refering to is the fact that since we have been saving up for a fence to keep our neighbors from staring at us instead of the crew going to a restaurant they come to our home to eat. You and I may have a history of back and forth on this site but i would respectfully request you dont get involved in this one, if you notice the people "j" and "sam i am" are only commenting on posts or articles that involve me. Thank You Jim LaGUardia
EMSChief June 26, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Regarding the comments made above about the ambulance being at a house. First, I am not sure how this is applicable to the discussion regarding Chalk Hill School so I wonder if the author has an another motive for the post. Second, I want to ensure all the citizens of Monroe that policies relating to our volunteers are put in place to ensure the best response to the citizens while meeting the needs of our volunteers. Monroe EMS will answer any questions from citizens. The appropriate forum is to send your concerns to the EMS Chief or EMS Commission (the Town appointed board that oversees the service and approves all policies). We will provide FACTUAL data and answers to legitimate questions and correct any misinformation that may be being presented. Our members are volunteers who work hard for our town. Our goal is to provide the best EMS service to the Town and we are continually striving to find new ways to meet that goal.

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