Last week the Town Council listened to Parks and Recreation Director, Linda Brooks and Advisory Committee Chair. Pat Moody’s presentation for their approval a proposal for a Windham Community Center. “There’s been a lot of discussion over the last few years, and more so probably in the last six to eight months, about a community center for Windham and what that could do for us as a community,” said Moody.
A survey was initiated to reach out to residents of Windham to understand if that was something they would like, and what that would entail. The methodology used isn’t an exact science. “We did an online survey and we also had it available on hard copy as well,” Stated Moody. It was also posted on the town’s website as well as being posted with other community groups within the town. It also could be found on social media. “I think we did our best to get it out there. It did well - with over 1,000 respondents representing 4,000 family members. We also had the opportunity on Election Day to have folks fill out a hard copy,” continued Moody.
One of the questions asked in the survey was: If it was felt that there are adequate programs and facilities in the town of Windham? The response was compelling, with 86 percent saying no and the remaining percent saying yes. Moody pointed out that, “The other question that jumped out was: If a community center that would provide programs and facilities for all ages would be supported. The response was 97 percent yes.” The top reasons for supporting a new community center was to satisfy youths’ needs, bring the community together with less dependency on schools and would satisfy the needs of senior citizens.
Councilman David Nadeau supported the new center stating, “I don’t think we do a very good job with the emotional needs of our constituents.” Nadeau continued, “At some point in time, we’re going to have to invest in ourselves.”
Moody explained what the next steps would entail: “We are looking to develop an Ad hoc committee for feasibility. We have a blueprint we have been looking at from World Development Initiative that’s called ‘creating a community center’, that we can provide to you, which outlines the steps that can be taken. It goes through the different steps a community would want to explore and along that time line, a number of opportunities where you would stop and evaluate; so it is a well thought out document and a useful tool.”
“The tasks this committee would be charged with is, determining preliminary needs and opportunities, seeking community input above and beyond the recent survey results,” Brooks explained. “They would also identify potential sites, obstacles and how to address them, by drafting a statement of concept on what would be accomplished and who it will benefit. I know people just say, ‘community center’ and so many people don’t necessarily know what that is. This is not like what South Portland has. Just look around the state of Maine. Many communities have addressed this need in a variety of ways.”
All seven council members, in the long run, agreed that a community center is needed and completely supports the idea of creating an Ad hoc committee. There was a question of who the members will be comprised of.
“We are seeking specific individuals who have already stepped up and expressed interest,” Brooks stated. “Someone from the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee would also serve.”
Town Manager Tony Plante weighed in on the need to invest in Windham’s sense of community. “There’s a real tendency, and I know I experience this myself, to focus on the nuts and bolts, keeping-the-lights-on issues. But I think as we’re going through the process of setting priorities (yes, it’s a big list, there are a lot of big things on it), I think we need to be careful to consider the things that, as Councilor Nadeau put it, connect with people’s need for community, need for a sense of identity.”
In conclusion Plante stated, “Community facilities and programs are one of the four big things included in the upcoming comprehensive plan so I don’t want this to get lost.”