MADISON, Conn. (WTNH) — A step inside the almost one year old $4-million Meig’s Point Nature Center and it is easy to see it is a world of wonder for its visitors.
“We love coming to Hammonasset and the Nature Center and for them to cut the funding for all the families, it’s horrible that they’re doing that. The beaches, you know, we love coming here. We come all summer long,” said Andrea Fairchild of Wallingford.
The Nature Center’s only full-time employee is one of 22 people in the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to receive a layoff notice last week. Don Rankin is on the Board of the Friends of Hammonasset, a group of hundreds who helped raise funds for the center and help to keep it operating. While the center runs well with volunteer staff on hand he says the full-time ranger that is normally there is irreplaceable.
“I get that we’re dealing with a fiscal crisis here but this, this is not the way to deal with it, at least in terms of this operation. You know, he has the skill set and we will certainly argue that we need somebody in there to run this place with the appropriate skill set,” said Rankin.
DEEP says their hands are tied when it comes to who gets let go and who gets to stay.
“It’s not something we set out to or wanted to do but given the rules of collective bargaining terms and agreements that govern layoff procedures, his name came up,” said Dennis Schain, communications director for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Rankin says they estimate more than 80-thousand people will visit Meig’s Point Nature Center this year. DEEP says they will do everything they can to keep the center running as close to normal as they can. Rankin says that simply isn’t enough.
“It’s a beacon of light. It’s something the state can be proud of and should be proud of and manage appropriately,” said Rankin.