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Center gets some of the funding it needs to open

June 20, 2014 | By G. Michael Dobbs

Three Chicopee students were honored at the June 17 City Council meeting as the winners of the annual Seniors and Law Enforcement Together poster contest. The winners were Jordan Boyington, Gabrielle Hogan and Lillian Olivio.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs

CHICOPEE – The $53,000 approved by the City Council will be a start in furnishing the new RiverMills Center, but the senior center will require more funds to acquire more furniture and equipment.
The council, meeting on June 17, unanimously approved the allocation from stabilization funds.
In his briefing prior to the meeting, Mayor Richard Kos said the new center “cost more than what the city thought.” He said the project is coming in at about $19.4 million.
“There is not enough money to pay for this all [furnishings] at one time,” He added.
He said presently the project is short between $200,000 and $300,000. The necessary furniture and equipment has a budget of $212,000, Kos added.
Sandra Lapollo, executive director of the Council on Aging, said the Friends of Chicopee Senior Citizens Inc has raised $1.5 million of the $2 million they pledged. Kos, who was one of the two co-chairs of the campaign, spoke about another giving opportunity for people to honor loved ones by buying memorial “leaves” on interior walls of the building.
“The effort [to raise money] is still being made,” he said.  
Kos also said that city officials would announce the receipt of a $25,000 grant for the center, but declined to disclose any details at the meeting. On June 18, Hampden Bank officially awarded the funds to the Friends of Chicopee Senior Citizens Inc.
City Councilor James Tillotson voiced his concerns about the project’s budget. “None of us anticipated a $19 million project. We thought it was going to be $8 million,” he said.
Lapollo explained that while excavating the foundation for the building a large quantity of buried debris was found that added to the cost of the brownfield remediation on the site.
Kos said there has been interest in the two cleaned parcels that abut the RiverMills Center from private interests.
The council passed the appropriations request unanimously.
Lapollo told Reminder Publications the $53,000 will allow the move to the new center to begin, “but it will be a challenge.”
She explained the furniture order will take at least eight weeks to be fulfilled and the parking lot is not yet completed. 
The council also approved unanimously to ask state Rep. Joseph Wagner to file a bill in the Legislature that would allow the city to repurpose the Chicopee Falls Branch Library into office space for the School Department. Kos explained the space was needed, as certain administrative offices have to be moved from the former Chicopee High School as it is being renovated into a middle school.
Library Director Nancy Contois said the use of the branch of as declined steadily over the past 10 years and at the same time numerous people have asked for the establishment of a branch library in various neighborhoods throughout the city.
She and Kos both explained the solution for increased service is a bookmobile, which Contois said was doing very well in Worcester.  She told the council an estimated cost for a bookmobile could be approximately $130,000. The bookmobile is still in the planning stages, Kos said.
She said, “It’s an old idea that is new again.”

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