STAFFORD – As the new community center opens, and plans for expanded services are being made, Beach Haven West residents complained about the lack of plans for a full kitchen facility.
The old community center was on Mill Creek Road and was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. In response, the township built a new community center at 775 East Bay Avenue. This building officially opened last month.
Then, when there were still more needs for smaller group meetings and events, the township bought a building from the school district. This building is located at 25 Pine Street, and it is adjacent to the East Bay Avenue building.
Beach Haven West residents have said that these buildings do not have what their old Mill Creek building had, such as a full kitchen and other amenities.
“All we’re asking for is to be made whole,” said Beach Haven West resident Joanne Sitek. They were promised a replacement that would be as good as or better than the previous building. “Without a kitchen, it’s not as good or better than.”
“The people of Beach Haven West have suffered greatly. The people are very upset,” she said.
Dawn Papatheodorou, president of the Beach Haven West Civic Association, said she is creating a petition to show strength in numbers behind wanting the same kind of facility they had before. The other two buildings are substandard in her opinion.
Regarding the new facility, she told the governing body: “We didn’t want Bay Avenue. You wanted it.”
She said the adjacent building, at 25 Pine Street, is “falling apart” and does not meet their needs.
These residents’ complaints created a back and forth argument between them and Mayor John Spodofora and Business Administrator James Moran.
“The room does not lend itself to a full kitchen,” Moran said about future community center plans. In order to put in a kitchen, there are a lot of regulations to follow, such as a fire suppression system, a route of egress in case of emergency, an enclosed area to keep children away from the stove, epoxy flooring and a gas line. This could cost $50,000 to $100,000.
A kitchenette with a fridge, microwave and cabinets costs considerably less. Spodofora added that if a kitchen was added, then it would cut down on seating.
“This is not a restaurant,” Spodofora said. But, even without the kitchen, they are still getting a better building than they had.
In an interview after the meeting, Moran said the new community center on East Bay Avenue is out of the flood plain, and can be used as a shelter. While there are people in Beach Haven West who are complaining about not getting all they want in a community center, there are taxpayers in other sections of town who don’t want Stafford to spend the money on more community centers.
“We have tried to balance everybody’s interest,” he said.
The Pine Street building has a few small rooms for smaller meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, knitting circles, bridge clubs and scouts. It is adjoining the East Bay Avenue facility.
It was originally owned by the municipal utilities authority. Then, the school board purchased it. Most recently, the township bought it from the school.
In addition to these buildings, there are club houses in many of the housing developments in town, Moran added.
“We have expanded our recreational offerings,” he said. “Nobody has the recreation programs from youth to seniors that we do.”