The imbroglio that has persisted since February over Jazzercise classes at the Ledyard Senior Center flared up again Wednesday at a meeting of the Ledyard Town Council.
Councilor Mary McGrattan said she had attended a meeting of the Permanent Commission on Senior Citizens earlier in the day at which the Jazzercise impasse was discussed.
At that meeting, a subsequent meeting was proposed for September that would include parties on both sides of the issue, plus Town Attorney Meridith Diette, in an effort to resolve the matter.
The news did not set well with Council Chairman Terry Jones.
“I don’t think we need a meeting,” he said. “I think if we get the Senior Center director and the Parks and Recreation director to sit down together in a room, we could get this resolved.”
Members of the senior citizens commission, which oversees Senior Center operations, have been trying to ban Jazzercise classes from the center since February. The dispute was sparked when photos of a Jazzercise anniversary party turned up on Facebook.
But McGrattan said the issue goes deeper than photos on Facebook. She said some seniors complain that Jazzercise is a for-profit venture, although she said there are other profit-making programs at the center. Another concern, she said, is that the classes are ongoing, whereas other programs may run for a limited time, such as 10 weeks.
“But that’s really none of their business,” she said. “They just can’t get over it.”
A sticking point is that Jazzercise instructor Lisa Mazzaro has a contract with the Parks and Recreation Department to use the space. Jones asked Diette, who was present at the council meeting, whether she feels Parks and Recreation Director Don Grise might have overstepped his authority by entering into a contract with Mazzaro.
“In my opinion, yes,” Diette said.
“If permission had been requested in the first place we wouldn’t have this problem today,” Jones said. “And probably the answer would have been yes.”
Councilor Linda Davis said Parks and Recreation runs three other exercise programs at the Senior Center – zumba, yoga and belly-dancing – and no one complains about them.
“This is a personality issue,” Davis said. “If I were king, I’d say ‘knock it off!’”
Mayor Fred B. Allyn Jr. said he has tried to resolve the dispute but has been hindered by the fact that center Senior Director Carol Gieler does not report to him, but rather to the senior citizen commission.
Councilor Sean Sullivan disagreed.
“This is something for the chief executive to show leadership and resolve this problem, yet month after month we waste time with this issue,” he said. “Someone has to say ‘I’m in charge. Someone has to win, someone has to lose, and that’s the way it is.’”