Though many expected the town to take over the Outback Teen Center this summer, the building remains in control of a newly formed board of directors and soon could get a name change as it’s rebranded with an eye on expanding its role and finding a way to sustain it financially, officials say.
The new board has assumed the nonprofit organization’s tax-exempt status and “are spending a great deal of time trying to find partners so that there could be some mixed use of that facility,” First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said Tuesday during a Board of Selectmen meeting.
“Who knows where it’s going to come out? They [Outback board members] still want to come to the town for some financing—I don’t know how realistic that is, so I am doing everything I can to work with them and put them in touch with different groups, whether it’s the YMCA or other groups that want to share that facility. But I think the model is some group uses [the building from] 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and runs programming out of it, whether it’s for challenged youngsters in our community that are through with their program and their launch program at our Board of Ed, maybe make that a hub for that, or whether it’s the YMCA that wants to do some programming during the day, and in the evening if the Teen Center may want to do homework studies or have a babysitting venue there for folks that are going out to dinner in town.”
Mallozzi said he is encouraged that Outback’s founding president Bob Albus and longtime supporters such as Katharine Sturgess are on the board and seeking to make a success there.
“I see what we are doing with the Lapham Community Center, there is a great track record of success there,” he said during the meeting, held at Town Hall. “It is hard to get that excited about the Teen Center because there was not a lot of great success in the last three, four years, and I think the onus is really going to be on them to find the right partners to make it work.”
It isn’t clear whether or just how that will happen, though early discussions about operating the center have included a possible name change, the first selectman said.
Despite fundraising and other efforts lauded by the town, the Outback under its former board had been unable to generate the revenue needed to afford long-term the building’s utilities and staffing costs on a standalone basis. After a proposal from the Outback Board of Directors that the town operate it jointly at a cost of about $83,000 did not develop, the board in June indicated that the facility, which sits on a centrally located parcel of town property on a nominal 25-year lease, would revert to New Canaan.
But a complicated lease agreement and problems connected to insurance, as well as the transfer of the nonprofit foundation connected to Outback, had legal ramifications that prevented the outright transfer of the building, Mallozzi said.
Albus could not immediately be reached for comment.
Selectman Nick Williams said that “everybody is in favor of a Teen Center, whether that is the name or not, it just has to be solvent.”
“If they come up with an innovative new model that works, I personally would step forward and support them financially, but I think we all know the old model was not work—throwing good money after bad.”