Veterans cry foul after losing control of center
By Joe Miksch, Register Staff          July 07, 2000 

DERBY ó The city took control of the Veterans Memorial Community Center last week, and veterans who previously ran the center blasted city officials for the way they handled the transition.

Leonard Waleski, vice chairman of the veteransí committee, said the cityís actions were an affront to the veterans who ran the facility for 35 years. 

"Absolutely no one from the city made any effort to make the transition run smoothly," said Waleski. "They kept us in the dark. I think they declared war on the veterans. It was their way of getting rid of us." 

Aldermanic President Michael Kelleher said the veterans were well aware of what was taking place. 

"We had explained to them what our intentions were," he said. 

"Some of their members took the opportunity to speak against it, and some were present at the (May 17) meeting where it was decided." 

The Board of Aldermen voted to transfer control of the center from the veteransí committee to the Parks and Recreation Commission. The transfer took effect Saturday. 

The veteransí committee, which ran the facility since it opened in City Hall in 1965, held a meeting June 27 to discuss whether to continue to meet, perhaps as advisers to the parks commission. 

But not enough members came to constitute a quorum, so nothing was discussed, Waleski said. 

In February, the veterans submitted a letter to the aldermen claiming the cityís financial support was inadequate to cover the centerís bills. The veterans were getting $53,000 a year from the city, paid quarterly. 

Waleski said the aldermen misinterpreted the purpose of the letter. Its intention was not to ask for more money, just the money the operating committee was due, he said. 

Kelleher said the veteransí letter asked the aldermen to take over the centerís financial obligations while allowing the committee to maintain control over operations. 

The city wasnít prepared to do that, he said. 

"Then our Downtown Committee (of the Board of Aldermen) went to the recreation committee and asked if they could run it," Kelleher said. "They submitted a plan, and meanwhile there was no plan coming back from the veterans." 

Waleski said thatís because his 15-member committee was never asked to submit a plan. 

"There was a lack of communication since all of this occurred. Iíve never seen anything like it in my life," Waleski said.