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Disrepair Draws Concern at Senior Center

The regulars at the Darien Senior Center come for computer classes , lectures or to dance . But press any of them or coordinator Beth Paris, and one complaint emerges: the building.

"Until Parks and Rec took it over last year, there was no extreme maintenance on the building," Paris said. "There was no preventative maintenance."

A new Senior Center is one of the three major capital building projects that the Board of Selectmen are considering, along with a renovated Darien Police Department and upgrades to Weed Beach's facilities. But since each would cost millions, the board is debating which to do first.

The Senior Center building has not been renovated since it was converted from an elementary school in 1984.

Paris said a jam develops daily in the back lot, the only entrance on the same level as parking. Many of the center's bathrooms are still labeled "Girls" and "Boys" and are 3-by-3-foot boxes, with toilets just a foot off the ground. The handicapped-accessible restrooms are larger, but the facilities are low to the ground.

All of the building's windows are single-paned, making it drafty in winter and poorly cooled in summer. In the craft room and hallways, holes in the roof lead to leaks during rainstorms. Outside the gymnasium, cracks along the mortar show that the building in sinking. Anti-slip guards on the front stairs are loose.

Since the Parks and Recreation Department took over in 2009, it has cleaned out clutter and completed repairs, Paris said. But she said her choice would be the proposed move to the Town Hall Annex .

"It has the most adaptability, and the most accessibility for collaboration with other departments," she said. "If we're more or less together, we're going to be able to serve seniors in a more efficient and proficient way."

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