Forum on new Senior Center draws crowd
Marlborough – Over 200 city residents gathered for a public forum at the city's current senior center June 26 to discuss a proposed new center that would be built at Ward Park. The proposal to build a new center at that location has been met with approval by many of the city's residents who feel the current location at 240 Main St. does not adequately service the needs of the city's senior citizens. But the plan has also been vehemently opposed by a number of citizens, especially members of the Ward Park Neighborhood Association.
Mayor Arthur Vigeant hosted the public information forum to give a full update on the progress of the project, including the conceptual plan and building layout by the design team and scheduled improvements to Ward Park and surrounding play areas and parking lot. His plans were met with a number of questions and comments from the project's opponents regarding the size of the building, parking, drainage, preservation of open space, hours of operation, and areas that are used for youth activities.
Paul Brodeur of Hayden Street said that the size of the building is not consistent with the state's Department of Elder Affairs guidelines and the location does not protect park and recreation space.?In response to Michael Nicholas of Water Terrace, who questioned a proposed “environmental cleanup,” Vigeant said: “You and I have had this discussion before and I am never going to give you an answer you will be happy with.”
In his opening remarks at the gathering, James Confrey, chair of the Marlborough Council on Aging board of directors, mentioned several new programs at the center that have had to be held elsewhere due to space limitations, such as a book club that meets at Academy Knoll.
“Another program that is popular is the new Gentlemen's Club. Because of the lack of space we do not have a game room for men, so much of our male involvement has been trips off-site which are well attended and enjoyed by all,” said Confrey.
In presenting the Ward Park Improvement Plan, Department of Public Works Commissioner Ron LaFreniere said he was excited about the proposed changes that will be made to the area. These include, he said, reconstructed and enhanced parking at Bigelow School, a renovated football field and increased playing surface, reconstructed walking paths, reconstructed tennis and basketball courts, the addition of a skate board park, a full-size children's playground and newly installed bocce courts and horseshoe pits.
Joe Rizza of Court Street Architects said the new building footprint was 14,601 square feet. Combined with usable programming and office space in the proposed second floor, total footage will be 22,000 square feet. Proposed amenities include a multi-purpose function room, a fitness equipment room, greenhouse/solarium, gift store, computer lab/technology room, an arts and crafts room, a library and exercise room.
Vigeant, who has announced he is running for re-election this fall, has stated that building a new Senior Center is one of his priorities. Officials looked at several other options but chose the Ward Park ?location, they said, in part because the property is already owned by the city. Of the 500,000 feet of space the city owns, officials note that only 3 percent would be impacted by the new center.
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