Newington community center proposal voted down - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Newington community center proposal voted down

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NEWINGTON, CT (WFSB) -

In Newington, the talk of the town has been whether or not to build a new community center at Mill Pond Park, and on Tuesday the majority of voters decided it won't happen.

The polling places had been busy all day in Newington, which is unusual since referendums usually only bring out about 10 percent of voters in town.

More than 6,800 people voted on Tuesday, which is more than a 35.5 percent voter turnout.

"It's been overwhelming how many people have come out to support us tonight. I am beyond words. I never expected this big of a margin of victory," said Sarah Jorgensen.

The push to save Mill Pond Park has been big from the start and hundreds of residents had been rallying across town to spread the word.

The $30 million project would include renovating town hall and building a new community center on the soccer fields of Mill Pond Park.

"There's a lot of vacant buildings if they need to build things, why build another building when there are vacant buildings," Tom Higbe of Newington said.

There are voters who were in favor of the project, and they came out to vote on Tuesday as well.

"I have young kids and it's about time they do something more for the kids and see the rec center go up," Rafeal Gonzales said.

"I hope they'll renovate because having something in town and not having to go to surrounding towns to rent out facilities" would be good," said Kelly Claffey.

Chairperson of the Town Hall Renovation Committee Clarke Castelle said he was voting in favor of the project, and said the community center needs an upgrade.

"The town deserve that. I think it will bring families into town, it will bring businesses into town. It's the best thing we can do, on the best piece of land we can find," Castelle said.

Because the project was voted down, officials will have to go back to the drawing board.

"I think there are better things to be spending their money on," Higbe added.

The referendum included renovating town hall in addition to the new community center. The current town hall and community center have failed to meet most ADA safety standards, and town officials have said renovating the current community center would cost just as much as the new project.

Nine locations were considered for the new community center, and Mill Pond Park was chosen, but when it came down to it, the majority of voters did not want it built there.

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