The kitchen may not be fully equipped, but the new pavilion project at Darien High School is cooking.
On Monday, the Board of Selectmen unanimously accepted a $500,000 gift from the Darien Athletic Foundation in order to construct a pavilion near the football field.
"We do have that money in our bank account, so we are good to go," said Jen Montanaro, a DAF board member who spoke before the selectmen, along with fellow board member Deb Parnon.
However, owing to a shortage in additional funds to fully equip the kitchen, as well as time constraints, the DAF is moving the pavilion forward with only limited kitchen capabilities.
"It will have basic kitchen equipment," Parnon said, including an ice machine and refrigerator. This will allow for the selling of prepackaged food, according to regulations.
However, in order to bring in a vendor to actually do cooking on the site, more extensive equipment would be required.
"This is a work in progress," Board of Education Chairman Betsy Hagerty-Ross said.
"We brought it back to how we originally presented this, with the intent that in the future we will have the ability to have a full-service concession stand," Parnon said.
She said the pavilion would be built with the capability intact to later make the additions and upgrades.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said she is a "strong advocate" of having the kitchen facilities intact.
"I think it's a great opportunity, and I hope someday it can function as a semi-professional kitchen," she said.
"All these ideas are really in progress, but in order to not change the scope of what the gift is, we need to move forward," Parnon said.
Care and maintenance of the pavilion will fall to the school board. Mike Lynch, facilities director, said it would be between $7,000 and $8,000 for custodial costs, electricity and cleaning supplies.
"So that would be a Board of Education expense," Montanaro said. "Any structural repairs ... the DAF would be responsible for those." Read Full Article
Selectman E. Reilly Tierney expressed some apprehension.
"This is a great part of a great program that you have," he said.
"I am, though, concerned that not doing this with a kitchen is going to result in an under-utilized space."
"I don't see myself being excited about using it if there's not a professional organization in there cooking stuff ... as opposed to just have a physical facility," he said. "I would really like to see you take the second step with this project ... otherwise it would be a massively under-utilized investment."
And DAF members agreed.
"It would really stall our efforts if we were going to change," Montanaro said.
"We'd have to go back to Planning and Zoning. ... It would probably stall this project for at least a year."
"We'd like to get the shovel in the ground," she said.
Jarret Liotta is a freelance writer.