By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, May 13, 2011
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
HAMPTON -- Nearly 50 residents came out this week to join a new group that is working to build a community/senior center in town at no cost to the taxpayers.
"It was a good turnout, but we need even more people involved," said Shannon O'Brien, who along with Madelyn Good is spearheading the effort to form a nonprofit organization for the project.
Those who showed up for the first meeting at the Congressional Church all said the town is in desperate need of community center.
They also agreed voters are unlikely to support funding such a project anytime soon.
O'Brien said the group started a discussion about what they would like to see in community center and where such a facility would be located. The group plans to continue that discussion at its next meeting on June 6.
"Those two issues need to be addressed before we can start any fund-raising or grant-writing," O'Brien said.
The group already has a design idea of what such a center would look like.
A resident at the meeting brought along $87,000 worth of architectural renderings of a community center the town drew up in 1987; the building called for in the drawings was never constructed.
While those plans would need to be updated, O'Brien said the drawings were a good start.
"It seems to have everything that people want to see, including a gym and a pool," she said.
Dyana Martin, director of the town's parks and recreation department, said she attended the meeting because she's been advocating for a community center for years.
She, along with a previous community center committee, worked hard to get such a facility in 2004 but decided to disband after its effort to obtain funding for plans was rejected by voters.
"I think it's great what they are doing," Martin said. "But what they are doing is a huge undertaking, and it's going to take a lot of work and it's going to take a lot of the members of the community to make it a reality."
Martin estimated the cost of facility with a kitchen, gym and pool would be roughly $6 million.
All three items were the top amenities residents wanted to see in a community center, according to a 2004 survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire.
O'Brien said she knows rasing that kind of money is not going to appear overnight but she feels confident as a group they can do it.
"Other communities have done it, why not us?" she asked.