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It's Decision Day for Darien Shuffle Project

DARIEN, Conn. – Darien will finally reach a decision Tuesday night on the much-talked-about plan to move the Senior Center and the Board of Education offices . The plan, known as the "Shuffle," has been debated at various levels of town government for more than a year. The Representative Town Meeting will be making the final vote.

The plan involves moving the Senior Center from its current location on Edgerton Street to the Board of Education annex at Town Hall. The Board of Education offices would be moved to the site of the old library at 35 Leroy Ave., a property the town has owned since 2007. The old Senior Center would then be demolished to make room for affordable senior housing.

The project was approved by the Board of Selectmen in October by a 3-2 vote and by the Board of Finance by a 3-4 vote. The shuffle has become a hot-button issue in this year's election and has been the focus of debates, candidates' press conferences and letters to the editor.

The current Republican majority on the Board of Selectmen, who are all running for re-election, have championed the project since its inception. They cite the pressing need for a new senior center, as the current one is in serious disrepair. With the Shuffle, they say they will be able to build a new center at Town Hall that will function as a senior center and a community center.

The Democratic candidates for the Board of Selectmen agree that there is a need for a new senior center but doubt the Shuffle is the best way to go about it. They believe that the $6.97 million cost of the project is too high. They also think that the price of the 35 Leroy property, which some have valued as worth up to $4.8 million, should be included in the final price tag of the project.

The Republicans maintain that there is a growing need for senior programming in town and that census data shows that Darien's senior population will increase. Those against the project reject this claim, saying that the senior population should remain steady, and that whatever programming they need can be provided by organizations such as the library and the Darien Community Association .

This special meeting of the RTM, which will take place at 8 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium, will determine whether Darien starts the project early next year or goes back to the drawing board.

What do you think of the shuffle project? Tell us in the comments below.

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