Town Manager outlines plan for new Senior Center

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The Allen Avenue School, closed in 2015, requires substantial repairs—such as a sprinkler and HVAC system—before it can be used again. Past discussions have suggested moving the health-related town offices to the building. Staff Photo/Max Bowen

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

From an increasing senior population to more signing up for programs, the town’s elders raised a number of concerns with the plan to move the Senior Center to Allen Avenue School.

At an informational meeting held on Oct. 26, Town Manager Michael Borg spoke on his proposal to spend $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to renovate the school. The town is slated to receive nearly $8 million and has four years to spend it.

Closed in 2015, the school has been largely unused and has a host of necessary repairs. $50,000 was spent 18 months ago to analyze the building and identify these issues, which include a leaky roof, removing hazardous materials, and a new fire suppression system.

Borg said the town planned to sell the property and looked at the Emerald Square Mall—now in receivership—as a possible new site for the Senior Center.

As we tried to focus in on that, then ARPA fell out of the sky,” he said. “One of the projects I immediately thought of was Allen Avenue. I saw a potential solution to give the seniors a permanent place that is our own—it’s town property.”

Repairs would take an estimated three years to complete, with a year to receive designs and another 9-18 months for construction to be completed. An Owner Project Manager would be hired to supervise the project and deal with unexpected or increased costs. In addition, Borg thinks the site could also accommodate departments such as the Veterans Agent and Council on Disabilities, as well as Lenore’s Pantry.

The end result is a facility that I believe is perfect for your needs and it can flex into the future and provide you a space for whatever activities you imagine,” said Borg.

One resident said the town’s population of senior citizens has risen steadily over the years and is now at approximately 6,000. Census predictions has it rising to 8,000 by 2030. They suggested that the entire school be used for the Senior Center and temporary classrooms adjacent to the building become the new home for town departments. Another said that many don’t participate in programs due to the limited room, but this would increase if the Senior Center was moved. Borg said they will work closely to manage the space available.

We’re committed to working with the departments to ensure this works,” he said.

Council on Aging Director Pam Hunt said that it was good to see the town step up and address the need for a new Senior Center. The current center is run out of the Howard Estate on Elm Street and $30,000 is paid to lease the property. She said that when she and Borg met, the first thing he noticed was that a new location was needed.

I know you made that commitment the first time you walked in the door,” she said. “We might need to make do and share.”

Town Councilors Justin Pare and John Simmons were also at the meeting and expressed their support for the proposal. State Rep. Adam Scanlon said even if the cost of work increases, there are other sources of funding.

Working together we will get this done,” said Simmons. “We want this to be a better situation.”