Mansfield town council approves donation for Community School of the Arts

The weekly Mansfield Town Council meeting took place on Monday, September 11 at Mansfield Town Hall. The council opened the meeting with statements from the public, which included residents concerned about excessive partying and the policy regarding euthanizing at the Mansfield Animal Shelter. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The weekly Mansfield Town Council meeting took place on Monday, September 11 at Mansfield Town Hall. The council opened the meeting with statements from the public, which included residents concerned about excessive partying and the policy regarding euthanizing at the Mansfield Animal Shelter. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

Last night, the Mansfield Town Council approved a measure for the Community School of the Arts (CSA) to be funded by a private donation.

The donors, Mr. John Lenard and Ms. Jean Lenard of Mansfield, offered a charitable donation to the Town of Mansfield to provide the necessary funding for improving and adding to the Eagleville Schoolhouse so the CSA program can be housed there.

According to members of the Mansfield Town Council, The Eagleville Schoolhouse is a historic schoolhouse owned by the town of Mansfield that has fallen into vacancy and disrepair.

“This is a historic building. It is probably one of the last actual one or two room schoolhouses in the town that hasn’t been repurposed. If somebody tore it down, it would be a real travesty. It’s part of our culture to conserve a historic building,” said Council Member Antonia Moran.

Council members spoke on the benefits of the program, from both a community and financial standpoint.

“This is a program that many of us were concerned the town would lose. It is a major program that benefits both the young and old within our community and is a potential revenue enhancement program as well. I think it both adds to the community’s town and culture and has the potential of adding to our tax base,” said Councilor Moran.

Council member William Ryan said he supported the program on behalf of the many town members who have benefitted from it.

“[Though] I am concerned about the cost, given the fact that our Parks and Recreation department has been able to run it for several years and turn a profit is evidence enough for me that it will continue to turn a profit,” Ryan said.

Councilor Ben Shaiken said he supported the project because he believed it would be foolish to turn down what he saw as an incredibly generous donation.

“I think especially in these fiscal times, this is a wonderful opportunity to be competitive and to take a risk on a profitable program, and I think it will put [Mansfield] in a better place as an attractive town that has a robust arts program for our children and our seniors and everybody in between,” Shaiken said.

Council member Kochenburger said he supported the motion because the CSA program has been a part of Mansfield for a long time and because the donation offers the town an opportunity to revitalize the program when fiscal limitations from the state of Connecticut would have otherwise prevented it.

Councilor Virginia Raymond opposed the proposition due to the necessary financial investment.

“I want to support this, but I feel as though the homework wasn’t done, and I’m inclined not to support it because of the budget. I know that a lot of my fellow council members believe this is going to be free but there is no such thing as free lunch. Ultimately there are going to be costs over the long haul,” Raymond explained.

Council member Moran concluded by saying she was supporting the proposition because she didn’t want the CSA to go into private hands. She believed if that happened the cost of lessons and the program itself would increase substantially.

“One of the advantages of this community school is that it can keep some of the costs of the individual and group lessons somewhat lower to make it more accessible for all members of the community,” Moran said.

Estimated costs to renovate and expand the Eagleville Schoolhouse for the CSA program are $1,279,920, which would be covered by the donation. The donation covers project costs associated with renovations of the original building, new construction of the added spaces and necessary site improvements, according to town documents.


Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.