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Framework completed for new senior center

July 19, 2013
<b>Workers carefully and quickly positioned the last steel girder in place for the new Chicopee senior center on July 11.</b><br>Reminder Publications photos by G. Michael Dobbs

Workers carefully and quickly positioned the last steel girder in place for the new Chicopee senior center on July 11.
Reminder Publications photos by G. Michael Dobbs

By G. Michael Dobbs


CHICOPEE — Three months after the groundbreaking of the new River Mills Center — the city’s new senior center — construction workers completed the steel framework for the $8 million structure at a ceremony on July 11.

People cheered as the last steel girder was brought up to structure carrying a pine bough and the American flag.

“This is a special day in the best city in Massachusetts,” Mayor Michael Bissonnette said.

Prior to the event, Christopher Nolan, who is the city’s project manager for the building, told Reminder Publications the senior center is “about on schedule.” He said that weather conditions had slowed down the steel erection “a bit.”

Nolan said that “unsuitable materials” were found at the former Facemate site as workers were completing the frost wall sand footings of the building. The material was construction debris from a previous era and did not require any special handling to remove.

He anticipated the center would be “substantially completed” for its April 2014 opening.

City Treasurer Ernest Laflamme, who is the co-chair of the Friends of the Senior Center’s campaign to raise $2 million for the new center, said the fundraising effort is “going good.”

He added, “We have a long ways to go. The second million dollars is a little tougher.”

To date the Friends have raised $1.1 million.

Bissonnette said there would be two three-acre parcels for development on both sides of the completed center. He also announced the city has received grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Housing of Housing and Urban development that will underwrite additional demolition of the Uniroyal site.

For City Councilor Jean Croteau, whom Bissonnette called the “godfather of the project,” seeing the steel completed was “another milestone.”

Croteau has been advocating for a new senior center for years and he said he comes by the site often to review the progress.

He believes a completed center would affect the economic development of the Chicopee Falls neighborhood. With an influx of seniors coming to use the center, he believes retail and service businesses in the area will benefit.

Building the center is important he said, as the city has to “meet the needs of all of your citizens.”

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