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Residents share wish lists for Berlin community center

A pool, exercise equipment, office space and a community kitchen were among the numerous ideas voiced by members of the public at the meeting about the new Berlin community center last week.

Community Center meeting

Berlin Mayor zack Tyndall speaks to a group of attendees at a public meeting on April 10 about the new community center planned for Flower Street.
Charlene Sharpe / Bayside Gazette

By Charlene Sharpe, Associate Editor

Dozens of residents shared a wish list of items they’d like to see in a community center on Flower Street in Berlin at a kickoff meeting April 10. 

A pool, exercise equipment, office space and a community kitchen were among the numerous ideas voiced by members of the public at the meeting. Mayor Zack Tyndall said that while the town would have to be realistic with its plans, at this phase officials are still brainstorming for what the new facility will include. 

“We really want to make sure that this is a place that everyone feels welcome,” he said. 

Close to 50 community members gathered at the Berlin library at the invitation of Tyndall and the Berlin Community Center Advisory Committee to kick off the planning process for the new facility. For years, the town has been working toward building a new facility on Flower Street to replace the decrepit multi-purpose building. Last year, the committee was formed and the consolidation of the four parcels making up the six-acre site was completed. Now, the committee is asking the public to weigh in on programming and amenities for the future center. 

“What it needs is the involvement of each and every one of you,” said Councilman Dean Burrell, a member of the committee. “This project is going to be dependent upon us as a community. We’d like to have the participation of the entire community. I’d like to ask that we share candidly as possible for what we think and what we see.”

Suggestions made included exercise equipment and gym space, meeting rooms and offices, resources to help with recovery and emergency shelter provisions, among other ideas. There was talk of space for junior wrestlers and football players, as well as office space for someone who could do sports physicals. Office space for a social worker and probation officer was also suggested. Other residents said the community needed space to store local historical memorabilia and artifacts. Burrell said there was already a commitment by the group to have a display related to the Flower Street School.

“We are going to incorporate the history of that location and that school so everyone in the town of Berlin can realize how important that place is to the town,” he said. 

Committee member Gabe Purnell agreed that it was important to preserve local history which currently was scattered all over. 

“I feel this place could really be a vault,” he said. 

Committee members stressed that it would take partnerships with a variety of agencies and organizations to make the community’s dreams a reality. 

“What we’re doing is ambitious,” said Worcester County Commissioner Diana Purnell, another member of the committee. “We need those partners to develop what we’re trying to do.”

Committee member DJ Lockwood agreed. He pointed out that the project was going to be expensive, as it would cost $1.8 million at today’s prices just to build a new structure the size of the multi-purpose building. He said maintaining a building like that cost about $10,000 a year in maintenance and $18,000 a year in utilities. 

“The whole community needs to buy into it,” he said. “We all need to open our minds to partnerships.”

This story appears in the April 18, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.