By Carley Dangona
WESTFIELD – Construction bids for the new senior center allowed for the inclusion of design choices to provide the safest, most durable center for its users.
The lowest bidder was Forish Construction Co. Inc. of Westfield. A bond request for $7.5 million will be presented to the City Council at its May 15 meeting, according to Council on Aging Executive Director Tina Gorman. She anticipated the council would make its final decision on the bond at its June 19 meeting.
“Our concern was if the numbers were to high, the whole project would be nixed,” Gorman said. “We were able to get all of the alternative features in the base price.”
Some of those features include maple flooring in the fitness room, granite curbing and the installation of a generator to support power outages. Gorman explained that these options were selected based upon the sustainability and ease of maintenance of the materials.
The safety of the center’s users was of highest importance. Gorman explained that concrete curbs usually need repair after the winter season. She said that wood flooring is “more forgiving” to those with knee issues than other types.
Jack Leary, chair of the Council on Aging Board, said that initially, the design “had been [very] conservative” to avoid objection to the cost, but that the alternate features are the most “durable, useable and functional” and therefore the best choice for long-term use. He added that the interior design of the center is not extravagant, but similar to other centers such as those in Agawam, Chicopee and Holyoke.
The new center will be located on the Noble Street. The design includes two wings, a one-story wing and a two-story wing. A large multipurpose room with a folding, soundproofed partition that seats 240 people is a main feature of the building. It will include a 113-space parking area and two points of entry.
A two-story, library/community living space, a gym, an arts and crafts room, a computer classroom and a billiards room will also be included. The right side of the building will include an expansion space if needed for future growth.
Gorman said that everyone involved in the design creation visited other senior centers in-person. She, herself, had visited too many to count.
At each location, she would ask the director of the center what he or she would change if they could go back. Gorman stated the information helped her choose the features that would best suit the needs of the Westfield center.
“How fantastic that after 40 years in the making, we will celebrate the groundbreaking of the new senior center,” Mayor Daniel Knapik said. He anticipated the event would take place late this summer and the construction would be complete within a year.