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Mar 4, 2009 12:05 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town expects to cut ribbon on renovated Flanders center later this month

Mar 4, 2009 12:05 PM

The much-anticipated grand reopening of the David W. Crohan Nutrition Center in Flanders—closed since December 2006 and originally scheduled to reopen last fall before the date was pushed back several times—will take place in the next two weeks.

The community center, located at 655 Flanders Road and just east of County Route 105, will celebrate its grand reopening on either Wednesday, March 18, or Thursday, March 19, according to Town Supervisor Linda Kabot’s office. The renovated facility, which received some $4.5 million in renovations and hosts everything from senior citizen lunches to community meetings, has already hosted several events, including last month’s Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association meeting.

The new center was originally supposed to open last fall and then again earlier this year, but delays in receiving all the necessary permits from the Suffolk County Department of Health, as well as work on other town projects, delayed the reopening, said Town Management Services Administrator Richard Blowes.

The center is now up and running, Deputy Supervisor Bill Jones said, with everything well in hand. “It’s just a matter of the supervisor’s schedule,” he said of the upcoming ribbon-cutting ceremony.

But some residents, particularly Michael Brewer, the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, are not pleased with the finished project. Mr. Brewer said he is particularly upset that the facility’s new kitchen does not feature a stove for cooking as did the old community center. As a result, food that is served to the town’s senior citizens must now be prepared at the Southampton Town Hampton Bays Senior Center and transported to the Flanders center where it is re-heated in warmers.

“I’m very upset we can’t cook in there,” Mr. Brewer said. “We have this state-of-the-art facility, which I’m grateful for, but there’s no stove.”

The old center, which closed in December 2006, boasted a full kitchen. Mr. Brewer speculated that concern over the center’s escalating cost, originally proposed at $500,000 and later increased to $4.5 million, forced town officials to scale back on some of the amenities.

But Mr. Jones said that was not the case, explaining that a fully operational kitchen was never included in the blueprints for the renovated community center. He added that the town could always install a stove in the future if there is a need for one.

“The concept of having one central location for quality control and efficiency has been part of the plan all along,” Mr. Jones said of the town’s food preparation strategy. “It also makes it easier to control personnel.”

Mr. Brewer said he was also concerned with not having a stove in case town residents are instructed to take shelter at the Flanders center during an emergency, such as a hurricane. Mr. Jones insisted that the center is fully equipped to handle such an emergency.

The new kitchen contains a warming stove, a dishwasher, a microwave, a walk-in refrigerator and a sink, he said. “If we knew a storm was coming and had to evacuate people to the site, we would be able to provide sandwiches and coffee,” Mr. Jones said. “We have everything we need to get through an emergency.”

Named after David W. Crohan, a 40-year veteran of the Flanders Fire Department and a community activist who died in June 2004, the multimillion-dollar facility includes the latest wireless and computer technology, all of which is available to the community. The cost associated with those services are part of the center’s annual operational budget.

Mr. Jones added that laptop computers, which are offered by the Southampton Town Youth Bureau, will be available at the Flanders center. “Kids will be able to come in, sit down and do homework,” he said.

The upgraded facility will also serve as an emergency preparedness base for the town. Mr. Jones estimates that in the event of an emergency, the center could comfortably house 150 town residents.

“That’s with cots and everyone having a little individual space,” he said. Mr. Jones said the center could sleep well over 200 in sleeping bags if necessary. “If the emergency was really bad, we could make it work,” he said.

When the Flanders center closed in 2006, initial plans set aside $500,000 for new paint and the installation of new flooring and windows, according to town officials. In a previous interview, Mr. Blowes explained that the project’s cost jumped from $500,000 to $4.5 million after town officials realized that the center required large-scale renovations.

Representatives of Sandpebble Builders, the Southampton firm retained by the town to complete the renovations, determined shortly after the center closed that it required extensive work. In April 2007, four months after closing the center, the town hired the architectural firm Beatty, Harvey and Associates to finalize blueprints for the new facility, further delaying the reopening date of the center.

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During an emergency, I'm glad the Hampton Bays Senior center has a stove for a hot meal. After all, we are the big voting block.
Let Flanders eat sandwiches and coffee.
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Mar 4, 09 6:52 PM
Beatty Harvey and Associates Architects did an awesome job and should be commended as well.
By OrignialLocal (34), Southampton on Mar 6, 09 2:49 PM
By kkathkon@aol.com (3), Flanders on Mar 9, 09 11:15 PM