The Berlin Community Improvement Association has two choices: it can improve the community, or it can talk about improving the community.
That assessment is about as blunt as County Commissioner Diana Purnell was last week at a community meeting on the future of the failing multipurpose building.
At issue was whether the BCIA should accept the Town of Berlin’s offer to assume ownership and renovate or replace the structure.
Referencing comments that relinquishing control of the building could cost it the historical value it has as a part of the old Flower Street School, Purnell said, “It can be so historical … you’ll end up with a pile of dirt it stood upon.”
In some ways, its value is more sentimental than historical, but it remains that this sentiment has never translated into the money the BCIA has needed to maintain it.
Its kitchen is nonfunctional, the building is being consumed by mold, and its structural integrity is questionable after exceeding its planned lifespan by decades.
And, as the Rev. Dr. Helen Lockwood told the audience, the private financing necessary to create the community centerpiece everyone wants does not exist.
Although some of the facility’s advocates fear the loss of their personal connection to it if local government takes over, that relationship will be based on nothing but a memory if something isn’t done soon.
Besides, a revamped or new community center that functions as social and educational hub, which is what the town has promised, will do something for the younger generations that do not share their parents’ and grandparents’ recollections.
Some members and friends of the BCIA might want to preserve the past, but this is no longer about them. It’s more about the youth who will benefit from a fully functional facility, and that’s why accepting the town’s offer is the right thing to do.