By Joan F. Simoneau, Community Reporter
(This article is an expanded version of the article that is in the Nov. 4 print edition of the Community Advocate.)
Marlborough – An estimated 100 city officials and senior citizens met Oct. 26 at the current Marlborough Senior Center, 250 Main St., to discuss proposed sites for a new facility. James Confrey, the chair of the Council on Aging (COA) Board of Directors, presented a detailed listing of requests.
Items other than a new location included additional and adequate space for administrative offices; additional programs and events; handicap-accessibility; plentiful parking; and a transportation plan. Confrey stressed the need for several large activity rooms to accommodate the many exercise and fitness programs that are popular with local seniors.
We would like to run several programs simultaneously, but at the present time we have but one activity room,” he said.
“I am very pleased with the turnout tonight. It demonstrates interest on the part of the seniors and our elected officials,” he noted. Ten of the current 11 city councilors – all but Councilor-at-Large Michael Ossing – were present.
It had been expected that an interactive dialogue would be held with the councilors and those in attendance but, due to an Open Meeting Law, that was not allowed.
Councilor Patricia Pope read a ruling from Assistant City Solicitor Cynthia Panagore Griffin before the group that stated, “Because a quorum of members is likely (six), the council would unintentionally violate the Open Meeting Law if members participated.”
Jennifer Claro, the COA director, asked attendees to instead submit questions to which the councilors will respond at a later date.
Mayor Nancy Stevens was unable to attend the meeting so she instead sent a letter, which was read to the group by COA member Paulina Lynch. In her letter, Stevens thanked those in attendance, “for taking the time to work on recommendations related to a new and improved Senior Center for the city of Marlborough.”
Stevens also noted in her letter the two sites currently owned by the city that she and other officials felt would “make excellent locations for a new Senior Center.” One of those locations was the Bigelow School, which is located on Orchard Street, adjacent to Ward Park. The building is large enough, Stevens said, to accommodate varied programs as well as large spaces, such as the gymnasium, cafeteria and increased parking.
The other site was the old landfill site on Bolton Street, Stevens said. A master plan of the site to create a recreational area there has already been designed by the city. It is in close proximity to the Assabet River Rail Trail, an added benefit, Stevens noted.
City Councilor Arthur Vigeant has also proposed the West Meeting House, located at 86 Pleasant Street, as a possible location. The 12,000 square foot historic building is situated in the City's French Hill neighborhood, has ample parking, and is located along a local bus route. Vigeant hosted an open house at the site on Oct. 25, where seniors were invited to tour the building and provide feedback and suggestions.
The city will next start work on a Request for Proposal (RFP) to further determine detailed needs for a new site.
The RFP, which is required by law, will help city officials determine the specific needs of the Senior Center, including whether to lease or purchase property, the types and sizes of spaces desired, the best location, parking needs and/or access to public transportation. The city must also appropriate money to purchase or lease the property, and to pay for design and construction services.