Community center open for business

AJ Marchant, left, of Prospect, and Luke Fenwick, of Beacon Falls, spar during the Prospect Fencing Club’s elite class Monday night at the recently-opened Prospect Community Center, the former Community School, on Center Street in Prospect. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

PROSPECT — After sitting empty for over 16 months, the former Community School building on Center Street is bustling with activity again.

Prospect bought the building and property at 12 Center St. from Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, for $873,000 last summer. The school housed elementary students until the new Prospect Elementary School opened in the fall of 2015.

The town purchased the building to turn it into a community center for recreational programs and town organizations to use and began making repairs to the building in July.

With the original part of the school built in 1936, there was much work to be done, including replacing three roofs, upgrading technology, removing brush, and painting. After extending the opening day of the Prospect Community Center from the original target date of Labor Day to finish repairs, the space is now open to the public and fully functioning, Mayor Robert Chatfield said.

Recreation Director Christopher Moffo’s office, which used to be in Town Hall, has been moved to the former principal’s office in the building. The town’s Emergency Management Office will also be relocated into the basement of the building.

The town’s activities have all been moved from the Grange to the community center, and the Grange has been closed until officials can decide an alternate use for it, Chatfield said.

Prospect Youth Service, which serves youth in grades three through five, used to call the Grange home, but now the department also has a new office in the community center.

“We look forward to many new opportunities now that we are in a bigger facility,” Prospect Youth Services Director Lori Kennedy said

Storage space has been set aside in the center for the town’s sports programs, and the gymnasium is open for use, as well, Chatfield said. Fencing and karate programs and local boy and girl scout troops have already begun to utilize the center. All scheduling is being handled by Moffo, he said.

As participants in a yoga class were leaving one room Monday night, members of the Prospect Fencing Club were preparing for the club’s elite class in the former school cafeteria.

The club used to operate out of the Grange and was the first organization allowed to use the center late last year, coach Sandra Marchant said. She said the club is growing and space was getting tight at the Grange.

“We were so tight it was crazy,” Marchant said.

Prospect Fencing Club coach Sandra Marchant provides instruction during the club’s elite class Monday night at the recently-opened Prospect Community Center, the former Community School, on Center Street in Prospect. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The club runs classes on Mondays and Fridays and two clubs, with a combined 60 members, on Saturdays. Marchant said the center has allowed the club to host more programs, including friendly competitions.

“It is fantastic because it’s the first facility that meets our needs for space,” said Marchant about the community center.

Within the last month, officials went through the building room by room to assess any more repairs that may need to be done, Chatfield said. The renovations will be ongoing and continue as necessary, he explained.

The cost of the repairs has stayed under the $400,000 voters approved for the work, Chatfield said. About $100,000 remains in the budget to replace the curtains in the gymnasium and the public address system, and to purchase a generator so the town can use the building as an emergency shelter, he said.

Chatfield said he’s extremely satisfied with the success of converting the former school into a community center and the efforts of everyone who helped in the planning and renovation process.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.