By Chris Maza
WILBRAHAM – The Senior Center Feasibility Study Committee will ask residents at the Annual Town Meeting on May 12 to approve an appropriation of $35,000 to fund a study that will research the possibility of constructing a new facility to serve the community’s senior population.
Dennis Lopata, chair of the committee, said the Finance Committee recently agreed to support the article.
“The scope of the feasibility study includes a site evaluation for suitability of that site, an assessment of the space needed for the senior center, a preliminary design for the center and cost estimations for the project,” he explained. “We’re also hoping to get a projected schedule for design, development and construction of the thing. That is all encompassed in the $35,000.”
The new building would most likely measure approximately 15,000 square feet. The current Senior Center, located in the Scantic Valley YMCA building, is 3,840 square feet. In a study conducted last year, Lopata presented data to the Board of Selectmen that the facilities in local communities with comparable senior populations averaged 15,384 square feet. There would also be an additional 5,000 square foot community center attached to the Senior Center.
“There is a need in town that was identified by Bryan Litz, our director of Parks and Recreation for more available field house or gym space,” Lopata noted.
Lopata said if the expenditure were approved at Town Meeting, it would be his hope to go out to bid with a request for qualifications and begin the study as soon as possible, but said he was unsure as to an exact timetable.
“We’re expecting that it would take two to three months for us to get our footing with this company and understand sites and budgets and presentation and layout,” he said.
Once a site is identified, he said the committee anticipated a two to three month bidding process for the construction of the building with an anticipated timeframe of 15 to 18 months to erect the building.
“That’s in the best case scenario,” he said. “Obviously the other piece of this puzzle is the funding piece. We’d have to be back before Town Meeting at some point.”
Lopata added that the Senior Center Feasibility Study Committee was working closely with the Police Station Feasibility Study Committee. That committee will also be requesting an appropriation of $23,000 to examine the possibility of replacing the current police station, which is more than 100 years old.
“When we both got in front of the [Board of Selectmen] in January, they said they were hoping to do these two projects simultaneously, so we’re trying to work in unison with the Police committee,” he said.
Lopata said the new Senior Center would be built primarily with a combination of public money as well as funds raised through private donations.
“There’s a third piece in there, too, which is not of high likelihood of being successful, but we are exploring if there is any grant money available out there,” he said, but added that with the addition of the community center portion of the project, there could be more funding available.
“The Friends of the Senior Center have been raising money for probably the past three or four years and the Friends of Recreation are also doing the same. I can’t speak for the Recreation Department in terms of the funds they may bring to the table, but I will tell you the Friends of Recreation are very excited about bringing their dollars to assist us with the building of the Senior Center,” he added.