Building Comm. Pitches Adult Community Center

LONGMEADOW, MA – Mary Beth Bergeron, chair of the Adult Center Building Committee, along with Architect John Catlin of Catlin & Petrovick Architects PC, appeared before the School Committee at its April 25 meeting to discuss the proposed new Adult Community Center.

Whether to fund the project with up to $14 million is coming up for vote at the Annual Town Meeting on Tuesday, May 8. Estimates presented at the meeting totaled just over $13.9 million, with $11.1 million allocated to construction of the 24,200-square foot building, and the remaining $2.8 million earmarked for soft costs.

The article requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass. If passed at Town Meeting, the issue would be placed on the ballot for the Annual Town Election on June 12, requiring a majority vote for approval.

“Town Meeting is critical for this project to move forward,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron explained that in the early stages, the committee examined the needs of the community at large, and not solely the senior population, “which is why this has really become a community center, rather than just an adult center or senior center.”

Addressing the need for the center, Bergeron pointed to the demographics of the town, noting that 4,509 individuals ages 60 and older, and an additional 2,666 “rising seniors” ages 50 to 60 years old. When those “rising seniors” reach 60 years of age, she said the senior population would account for nearly 45 percent of the town’s total population. She further stated that the number of residents under the age of 18 equaled roughly 2,500.

“You can see that there’s a skewed demographic in terms of the needs of the community,” she said. “I think all of you would probably admit there has been some lack of parity between the resources of the town and how they have been allocated to our senior community.”

The budget for the Council on Aging, Bergeron asserted, was $156,000. Services including Meals on Wheels, the town nurse, veterans’ agent, social services coordinator, and programming and meals at the Adult Center are funded through this budget allocation, which she called “simply insufficient to meet the needs of the existing population, nevermind the growing population.”

Catlin gave a presentation, which outlined some of the physical deficiencies of the current building, including outmoded, inaccessible, and undersized restroom facilities, lack of private areas for counseling sessions, small activity areas, and outdated features such as single-pane windows that impact the energy costs involved with running the Adult Center.

The new center, he said, would be located in a central location at Greenwood Park between the pool and the youth center.

The plans for the two-story senior center include larger community activities spaces as well as a gymnasium with an elevated walking and running track. Catlin said the intent was to make the gymnasium available to not only seniors during the day, but to the community’s youth after hours via a separate entrance. He noted that Natick has a similar setup and the gymnasium is open to young adult basketball five nights a week, as well as weekend basketball leagues.

Bergeron added the gymnasium would be available to the Park and Recreation Dept. from 3-10 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday.

The food pantry, the veterans’ agent, and the town nurse would also have a segregated, but accessible area. A performance area, a café, a lounge and library, a multi-purpose room, classrooms, and a fitness center are also proposed.

Plans also include pickelball courts, a patio, and a three-purpose athletic field and two smaller youth athletic fields adjacent to the new building. A new parking area would negate the safety issues associated with having traffic for both the senior center and the youth center in the same area, Catlin added.

School Committee Chair Michelle Grodsky said the plans looked “beautiful and exciting for our community.”

– By Chris Maza