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Mixed Reaction Over Bloomfield Council's Spending Freeze On New Building

A majority of senior citizens asked Wednesday at the Marilyn Michaelson Senior Center said they did not support the council’s decision early this week to freeze spending on the planned new $22.3 million human services facility.

The facility would include a new senior center, and youth and leisure services.

“A new state-of-the-art center will take care of residents of all ages,” said Gwen Lewis.

Lewis was among several visitors to the center who were unhappy with the council’s decision Monday less than two months before it was scheduled to go out to bid.

Council members made the decision Monday to halt spending temporarily over concerns that the project is almost $3 million over budget.

The issue has been referred to the council’s finance subcommittee, which meets Tuesday. Architects and members of the building committee are expected to attend and answer questions related to the funding gap.

The earliest the spending freeze could be rescinded would be the council’s next scheduled meeting Nov. 27.

Joseph Suggs, chairman of the building committee, which met Wednesday, said the architects were researching questions from the council, even though the committee does not have the authority to pay them for the work.

Suggs said the architects generously offered to research the questions without compensation, but added that he is concerned that even a two-week delay could cause problems.

“If we go beyond two weeks we won’t be able to go out to bid on time, which is likely to result in additional costs,” Suggs said.

Suggs has also expressed concerns over the safety of the building, which does not have a sprinkler system, and other issues related to heating and cooling.

Not all of the seniors Wednesday shared Suggs’ or their fellow residents’ concerns about the project.

Armand Abbott, along with several others, said he doesn’t see the need for a new building.

“I’m happy with the building we’ve got,” Abbott said.

Former council member Leon Rivers is planning to circulate a petition beginning Thursday stating that residents are “very disappointed that the council is attempting to stop the [building project] process.” Rivers, who spearheaded the project’s approval by the council he served on, said he planned to present it to the new council at its next meeting.

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