Ansonia, Derby discuss combined senior center plan

Sheila O'Malley, Ansonia's economic development director, speaks to a senior at a hearing at the Ansonia Armory on the proposed senior center that would be shared with Derby.

Sheila O’Malley, Ansonia’s economic development director, speaks to a senior at a hearing at the Ansonia Armory on the proposed senior center that would be shared with Derby.

Eddy Martinez / Hearst Connecticut Media

ANSONIA — Residents expressed interest in a senior center serving both Ansonia and Derby in a public hearing held this week at the Ansonia Armory.

The combined center would run out of the new senior center being built at 65 Main St. and would share space with the new Ansonia police station, which is currently under construction.

City officials emphasized that the combined center would increase the kinds of services available for seniors while saving money in yet another push towards regionalization.

Derby Chief of Staff Andrew Baklik pointed out during the question and answering session that the current Derby senior center was in major need of renovations that would cost millions of dollars. “Let’s also factor in the amount of construction that's going to be happening in downtown Derby over the next three to five years. So, if you think it's bad now, it's expected to get worse,” he said.

Baklik also said that planned construction would make access more difficult for visitors to the senior center.

The Derby senior center is located on Main Street, where the city wants to expand the street for increased traffic flow. A parking garage is nearby but the path to the garage is on an incline, potentially making access difficult for seniors. Baklik also said that the center itself has multiple stories, making navigating the space difficult.

In contrast, the new senior center would be a modern building, sharing space with the police, which officials at the meeting touted as crucial. The center would cost $700,000 to build, according to economic director Sheila O’Malley.

Diane Stroman, an Ansonia alderwoman representing the Fourth Ward, said that seniors would benefit from having police feet away in case there was any incident or danger.

She also said that having the senior center would only benefit the two cities and lead to increased cooperation with other cities in the Valley. Another Ansonia alderman, Daniel King, who represents the First Ward, also pointed out that the combined center would save money. But it would also be more exciting for seniors since it would have the resources for more recreational programs.

Baklik said that there’s already a precedent for the center.

“We already have cross use of the centers so if we have an opportunity to have a brand new building, why wouldn't we?” he said.

One attendee expressed concern over the layout of the proposed center and wanted limited access from the elevator. Yet the majority was receptive to the center.

However, none of the Derby alderman attended the meeting. Baklik said that some couldn’t come due to prior engagements.

Ansonia’s corporate counsel, John Marini, said that the city is going forward but wants Derby to take part.

“The Derby aldermen really have to consider the offer and give us an indication as to whether this is going to be a green light for the city of Derby. Meanwhile, on the Ansonia side, we're set, we're ready to go,” Marini said, after the meeting.