Stafford: Community Center Needs Still Being Studied

The Pine Street community center, adjacent to the East Bay Avenue building in Stafford. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

STAFFORD – Half a year after telling residents that the recreational needs are being studied in town, officials said that more information still needs to come in before they consider rebuilding the Mill Creek Community Center.

The Mill Creek building was left unusable by Superstorm Sandy. The plan had been to rebuild it. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency wouldn’t fund a new building in a place that is so easily flooded. So, the township built a new center on East Bay Avenue instead. This building opened at the end of 2016. Meanwhile, the township purchased the adjacent Pine Street building with donated money.

The plan, officials said earlier this year, was to use these two buildings that are more centrally located and see what the recreation needs of the town are. If there is a great need, there might be more evidence to rebuild Mill Creek. But as of the first half of 2017, the reconstruction was halted.

Officials have said that they have not ruled out rebuilding the Mill Creek Community Center, but want to make sure there is a need first.

Stafford Bay Ave community center interior (Photo by Chris Lundy)

Dawn Papatheodorou, president of the Beach Haven West Civic Association, asked at the most recent Township Council meeting when the needs assessment will be done.

“We will let you know when it is done,” Mayor John Spodofora said. There is no timeline for the study, he added. The summer has just begun and the town hasn’t had a full year of operating the new center. “We’ve got to have more data.”

At a previous meeting in the spring, Spodofora said there was a preliminary list made of all organizations that use facilities, when they meet, how often, and the number of people at events. Following that, the township was recording the real time statistics of these organizations in action. They wanted to see how often buildings get utilized and for what purpose.

The most recent argument that derailed progress on a community center in Beach Haven West was whether the Mill Creek building would have a full kitchen. The old building had one, but fire codes had changed since then. Any new one would need a much larger space than the original, with more expensive upgrades.