January 1, 2016

Human Service Advisory Committee tries to gain traction for community center - By Michelle Libby

The Human Service Advisory Committee requested the Windham Town Council to submit an application for a planning grant to assist in the planning and development options for a community center in Windham at the last town council meeting last week.

“I think what we’re looking for is for the rest of the community to be a little more vocal,” said committee member Marge Govoni.

The need for the community center is there, the committee said. In survey after survey and at planning meetings the result is the same, the community wants a place for seniors, youth and services that can meet the needs of Windham.

“It becomes the hub of the community,” said Wanda Pettersen. It would also be a place to consolidate off the social services from the loan closet to the food pantry. “It may be time to take another step,” she added.

The grant, which would not cost any money to apply for, would help define what the community needs and wants in a center. The need has been mentioned since 1999.

Town manager Tony Plante cautioned the committee to not look at the grant process as free. Without matching funds or a scope of work, the planning grant committee the grant request might not score high enough. “It’s very competitive,” he said.

Council chair Donna Chapman asked the committee to put a hold on the request until another survey can be sent out. She wanted to know is the community would be willing to fund such a project, where it would be located. Chapman also wanted to bring in the parks and rec and senior advisory committees.

“We need something for kids to do,” said committee member and social worker Laura Pecoraro. The committee has looked into having a Boys and Girls Club or a YMCA brought into town, but that would give away local control and fundraising abilities, she said.

Positive benefits of a community center are all services in one place, the increased ability for people to access it and extended hours. It would also help people know where to go when they want to volunteer, Pecoraro said. “It would expand to have a centralized place for all families to go. Mom could be walking the indoor track, while the teenager was working out with weights and dad was swimming in the pool. It would be amazing to offer something that makes [residents] want to stay in Windham,” she said.

The deadline for the final application for 2016 is February 2. 

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