BEACON FALLS — The committee in charge of shaping a new community media center has big plans. However, funds to get the plans off the ground are coming up short.
The Community Media Center Committee has asked the town for $25,000 for the preliminary design of the community media center to be built on Wolfe Avenue.
Committee Chair Sue Dowdell said she hoped to send out the request for qualifications and request for proposals at the committee’s next meeting Oct. 26, but officials told her to hang tight until the town can come up with the funds.
First Selectman Susan Cable said she would like to review the money scenario with the town business manager and Board of Finance before approving funds for the project.
“I personally believe we should continue moving forward with the community media center. No matter what the future holds, we have to keep moving forward,” Cable said at a Board of Selectmen meeting last month.
Selectman Michael Krenesky expressed concerns that the town already has too many other projects on its plate to spend more on this project now.
Despite a shortage of monies for the project, the committee is not short on ideas for what they hope will become a focal point of the community.
“We’re still moving forward so that when (money) does become available we’re ready to roll,” Dowdell said.
The committee has been busy this summer, visiting seven different libraries and several historical societies in the area to gather ideas for the multi-purpose center.
“We’re putting together our vision from the different kinds of places we’ve seen,” Dowdell said.
Besides a larger library, Dowdell envisions the media center having space for recreational activities, historical displays, along with space for civic organizations, local businesses and town committees to meet, and study rooms for students.
Having space for Parks and Recreation activities, like Zumba and yoga, at the media center will free up space at schools for school sports programs, Dowdell said.
“Basically, it all comes down to space,” said Alison Sirowich, who serves on both the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Media Center Committee.
Sirowich said Parks and Recreation has a lot of programs, but has to fight for space at schools.
“There’s a ton of stuff going on and no room for anybody,” she said.
Sirowich said it would be nice to have space for exercise classes and the ability to program daytime activities like senior yoga, preschool programs, or art classes.
“The interest has really been there these past few years,” Sirowich said. “It would just be nicer to be able to do these things.”
Dowdell said she’s been working with historical society President Beverly Krenesky to determine the society’s needs, including storage and work areas.
Currently, historical society archives are housed in Krenesky’s basement, Dowdell said.
“Hopefully it will encourage more people to donate or go looking for things that they may have put away on the town,” Krenesky said.
Krenesky said it has been the society’s goal to have a museum space since it was founded in 1990.
“I understand it takes a long time,” Krenesky said. “Perhaps this will solve our problems and be a solution to what we hope to gain. We’re pleased that the group is considering including us in this endeavor, and we hope it will work out.”
Krenesky said her basement is full of items the society has collected over the years, including photographs, newspaper articles, an U.S. Air Force helmet, clothing from the 1800s, and even a cradle made out of boxes from the Beacon Falls Shoe Company.
“We need a place that’s airtight to be able to store this stuff properly,” Krenesky said.
She said the historical society currently has stuff spread all over town, with small displays in the senior center and Town Hall.
“There are things out there, and if we had a place, I’m sure we would see more,” she said.
Dowdell said it’s important to have space for community and service organizations to gather as well, especially since groups like the Girl Scouts are no longer allowed to meet in member’s homes.
The media center would also free up the top floor of Town Hall once the library moves out, giving more space for boards and commissions to meet—something that can be difficult to schedule right now.
“Once there’s room, there’s no limit to what can happen over there,” Dowdell said.
In her tours of other towns’ media centers, Dowdell said she especially liked the one in Darien.
“What was really nice about Darien was the focus was not on the materials, it was on the people,” Dowdell said. “We’ve always been a very welcoming library and we want to make sure that continues in a new facility as well.”
She said that media center also had a small home office that functioned like a Kinko’s for small businesses to print banners and laminate papers.
“They would be able to come into the library and use the soho in order to do those minute things,” Dowdell said.
Dowdell said she also hoped the media center would include a computer training center to help the business community. Businesses and the Economic Development Commission would also have a board room to make presentations and attract more businesses to town.
“This would be an asset to the town from an economic development standpoint,” said Economic Development Commission Chair Anthony San Angelo.
He said it would be a great selling point for the town if businesses could use a room for PowerPoint presentations and teleconferences.
“That’s great that they’re expanding their vision,” San Angelo said.
As part of the new library, Dowdell said the committee would also like to expand the children’s room so children would have space away from the other materials to have story time, crafts projects, and an interactive play area.
“That’s the kind of thing we’d like our children to do all the time without disrupting regular operations,” Dowdell said.