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Opinion: Local teens risk losing a lot of space under new plan

On Friday, Feb. 7, I visited the Teen Center on the lower level of our municipal gym. I happened to meet Colby Benjamin, co-director of ACT (Addison Central Teens). He said, “The Teen Center is vital.” Their doors are open Monday-Thursday, 3-7 p.m. He said that these are the hours when teens can get into trouble. They leave school, hang out in groups, with nothing to do till their parents get home from work. The Teen Room is cheerful and warm, there are four computers (homework, music and Internet), couches and chairs, and a pool table (690 square feet). There’s a Quiet Room (310 square feet) for their use. Colby says they can use the gym (6,842 square feet) for basketball and winter indoor sports when there are no organized sports), they can use the Senior Center kitchen (380 square feet) and the Russ Sholes Senior Center (1,101 square feet) activity room for teen suppers.
Bread Loaf’s PowerPoint presentation on Aug. 29, 2013: “Teen Center users benefit by being in a community center with proximity to users of different generations (senior citizens).”
There is also available a Martial Arts Room (900 square feet). I met a Middlebury College student there. He said that many college students use it.
When you add all the available activity space, the teens have 10,223 square feet they can use. If the gym is demolished, the town has offered ACT the Warming Hut located near Mary Hogan Elementary School with a view of the playing fields (which have been frozen over since December). One activity room (400 square feet). A 20-foot-by-20-foot space compared with 10,223 square feet of activity space in our municipal gym.
The Teen Center is ideally located. A quick walk to Ilsley Library (books, computers, and a safe place to meet), near Sama’s (eating and meeting), Otter Creek Bakery (eating), and a short walk across the bridge to our downtown, where they become consumers, and then there’s the town green.
Ruth Hardy wrote in her resignation letter of Jan. 4 (from the Town Office Recreation Facility Project Steering Committee) to Dean George, chair of the selectboard: “I am opposed to the project not because it would sell land to the college, or build a facility on school property, or exclude our library, teens and seniors. While these facets are important, my opposition to the project stems from the fact that I have seen no analysis to suggest that building a new gymnasium or town office best serves the most pressing needs of our community, nor even that such a project would serve the alleged specific recreational and administrative needs.”
Vote NO to the $6.5 million bond vote to build a new gym and office building on March 4.
Vote YES on Article 9, to “advise the Select Board to retain the town offices and municipal gymnasium on the current site as publicly owned land and to develop, for voter approval, a plan to replace and/or upgrade these facilities on this site.”
Ben Burd
Middlebury

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