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BOS Approves Children’s Adventure Center Expansion, Lease



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Following a closed executive session August 19, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal notified The Newtown Bee that the Board of Selectmen have approved a lease arrangement along with an expansion of the Children’s Adventure Center into most of the vacant adjacent space formerly occupied by the Senior Center.

Mr Rosenthal said following the closed session, selectmen returned and unanimously approved an annual lease of $36,000. Once all the paperwork is reviewed and signed off by all parties, the early childhood center that serves children from 2½ to 5 years old will occupy the entire Riverside Road facility, except for one large room.

That space — the former Senior Center’s piano room — is being reserved as storage for equipment and supplies used by the Registrars of Voters. The registrars currently use a storage room at Town Hall South, but the first selectman said as the police department readies for its relocation to a new headquarters, that building needs to be completely vacated.

The Social Services department, formerly at Town Hall South, has relocated into the Center for Support and Wellness at Fairfield Hills, and the Parks & Recreation administrative offices have already fully shifted to space in the new Community Center.

Mr Rosenthal said stipulations of the lease include a cooperative arrangement between the town and the Adventure Center, which is the municipality’s official state-sanctioned childcare center. The town will be responsible for snow plowing, landscaping, utility costs, and any significant structural or mechanical repairs.

“The selectmen want the Children’s Adventure Center to succeed,” Mr Rosenthal said. “So we want to work with them on this. It makes the most sense to let them expand to occupy most of the rest of that building.”

The first selectman said that he believes the town would be hard-pressed to easily find another tenant for the space given the floor plan configuration, and that a tenant would need to be an appropriate fit for relocating next to an active preschool.

He said the lease is structured with a seven-month advance notice for termination, and terms could be renegotiated annually.

“The Children’s Adventure Center has a long and distinguished record of success serving Newtown families and others from the immediate area,” he said. “And as the town’s subcontractor for childcare services, I’m happy to see they have the opportunity to expand to better serve our families and children in need of daily care.”

Mr Rosenthal said the selectmen deemed it a fair lease and were pleased that the revenue would approximately offset the expense for municipal services and utility costs.

“I think we landed in a good spot with this initial lease arrangement,” he said.

Several hours after receiving the news of the lease approval, CAC Executive Director Anna Ruggiero was still gleefully ecstatic. She said the expansion would effectively permit the center to eliminate its waiting list of parents and others seeking full-day childcare or who need to utilize the center’s before and/or after school programs.

“There’s just not enough affordable childcare in our region,” Ms Ruggiero said. “It’s a reality that we have families struggling in our town to afford the care they need to be able to work. And some of them — single parents — are paying up to one-third of their pay just to afford childcare so they can work.”

Ms Ruggiero said she has also seen cases in two working parent homes where one of the parents may just be working to cover the cost of childcare.

“So expanding the center has been a long-term goal of mine going back over five years,” she said. “With this new lease and the ability to expand, we can help more of our families. We’ve had some on the waiting list since last November.”

Ms Ruggiero said the long waiting list is also a testament to the quality of the Adventure Center’s programming and the legacy of its co-founder — the late Mae Schmidle.

“I don’t believe I’d have the level of passion for this place that I do if it wasn’t for working beside Mae,” Ms Ruggiero said of her predecessor.

The expansion into the former Senior Center space will also allow the CAC to create an entire new classroom, which means it will have more job opportunities for students in the Newtown High School, and in area college early childhood education programs.

“I love having these young people come in to work with us,” she said. “They bring energy and fresh perspectives, and they love to just get down on the floor and play — the kids absolutely love it,” Ms Ruggiero said.

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