Letter: ‘Rush To Judgment’ on Future of Outback Building


Dear Editor,

I am concerned that a rush to judgment has been made over the building behind Town Hall formerly know as the Outback Teen Center.

While I am not qualified to assess the building, I find it astounding to learn that it has experienced such a dramatic decline over a short period. I believe the public needs a more detailed explanation of its condition before the drastic step is made to tear it down.

Over 15 years ago, 1,000 individual gifts in excess of $2.2 million were made to construct the Outback. Its Board of Directors successfully operated it as a private non-profit entity to benefit New Canaan’s teenagers with activities “by teens and for teens” deemed to provide young people with independence and positive self-worth.

During its best years, visits to the Teen Center averaged over 1,000 per month — one of the most successful centers for youth in our area. However, the Teen Center never received full support from Town leaders.

Now, within less than 30 days of taking possession of the building, our Town government has deemed the building to be structurally unsound and in danger of imminent collapse should a strong storm hit the area. People who actually used the building over many years find this scenario hard to believe.

Accusations were made that the Outback volunteers were negligent with building maintenance. A basic schedule of maintenance was performed as legally required, sometimes with the help of Town employees. An engineering report performed around 2007 deemed the building to be structurally sound while the upper floor was imperfect.

Inquiries have indicated that many of the findings by the DiSalvo Engineering report may be minor ones that can be fixed rather inexpensively. It is very convenient for the Town leaders to declare the building unsafe and request it be torn down while people are away on summer vacation and have no direct input as to the disposition of this building. Its fate should not be decided in such an impulsive manner.
I hope that our own officials give serious deliberation to actions they take.

Christina Fagerstal

New Canaan resident, former board member and past president of Outback Board of Directors

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