| Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – At long last, two major projects for the town of Longmeadow will be complete.
Building Committee Chair Marybeth Bergeron recently confirmed that, barring any unforeseen complications, the construction of a new Adult Center at Greenwood Park and a new Department of Public Works (DPW) facility on Dwight Road are on schedule to be completed this fall.
“Both projects will be completed I won’t say simultaneously but pretty close to each other,” she said.
Each project has faced its share of adversity. For the Adult Center, the challenges were more philosophical with regard to location and several proposals were explored before the town finally agreed upon the Greenwood Park site. After close to seven years of debate and discussion, ground was broken on that project in July 2019. For the DPW, it was the almost immediate discovery of asbestos-containing materials scattered throughout the site that resulted in extensive delays and cost overruns that required additional funding approval at Town Meeting.
Now, however, Bergeron said she is cautiously optimistic.
For the Adult Center, contractors have requested a one-month delay but are attempting to complete the work on the original schedule, utilizing recently mild weather to catch up. The steel framing has been erected and concrete has been poured for the first and second floor. Once the concrete was completed, it cleared the way for exterior siding and roof work to begin.
“We’re not disappointed in the way things have gone in terms of construction,” Bergeron said.
The plans for the 24,200-square-foot building include indoor and outdoor fitness and wellness, dining, activity and community areas while complying with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. The facility would also provide much-needed private areas for the town nurse, veterans services and social services. In addition, the town’s food pantry and nutrition programs will continue to be run out of the Adult Center.
Adult Center Director James Leyden said he and his staff has already begun the planning process for the transition into the new facility once it is completed.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about the transition from what we do here right now with programs and services and how that goes into the new building,” he said. “A lot of that hasn’t been confirmed because we don’t know the timing of things. Moving things in is going to be a process, but we are taking the programming we currently have and are transferring it into the new building along with new programs we are going to develop. We feel it’s going to hit the ground running when we do open.
“We’ve talked about a lot of new programming that we want to do that our current space just hasn’t allowed due to space and some other reasons. We think that with the excitement of the new building, it’s really going to expand our programs and also expand community awareness and people are going to want to be a part of it and open up things we’ll be able to do to reach new generations of older adults.”
Bergeron added one of the challenges faced by the Adult Center is the task of serving two demographics – younger, more active seniors as well as older seniors more often associated with taking advantage of senior center services.
“They’ve been working over the last year to expand their programming to begin to reach out to that younger demographic,” she said, adding the center has already seen usage increases ranging from 25 to 40 percent, depending on the month, since Leyden became director. “Jim and his staff have done a fabulous job. It’s been a combination of the excitement around the new building and the interest in what Jim offers.”
While there is a small budget for furniture, fixtures and equipment, a nonprofit called the Longmeadow Adult Community Center Fund (LACCF) has successfully raised more than $430,000 to help make the space comfortable and welcoming.
“I’m proud to say we’ve received support from very generous members of the community,” Bergeron said. “We have received very small donations and very large donations. Broadly, the community is supporting this project 100 percent. People donate for lots of reasons. Some donate because they want to memorialize a loved one, others donate just because they believe in the project and are active participants here, and others donate because they see the value of an adult center in a community like ours where 30 percent of the population is older than 60.”
At the opening, the town will host a celebration that has yet to be planned and Bergeron suggested the LACCF would also be sponsoring additional programming in the first few weeks.
“We want people to come. We would like the population to embrace this building, to make it a part of their everyday lives and to enjoy the opportunities that are here,” she said.
Meanwhile, the asbestos issues on the new DPW site are believed to be resolved, according to Bergeron and she and Longmeadow Town Manager Lyn Simmons indicated weather is now the primary variable in the completion timetable.
“We have some change orders that have to be approved and finalized, but we have allocated funds for those particular tasks that have not yet been completed and we have sufficient funds to complete the project,” Bergeron said.
The transition process for the DPW from the current facility on Pondside Road and the new facility remains up in the air, dependent on the actual date of completion.
“Some of that will depend on the schedule as that comes into focus. As the project becomes closer to complete, we will have a better idea on what the transition looks like and what a move from the old facility to the new facility would entail,” Simmons said.
Simmons and Bergeron added that unlike the Adult Center, the DPW facility will not have the same obvious benefits, but promises to extend the life of the department’s vehicles and equipment, saving the town money in the long run. Improved vehicle storage and washing bays will preserve the department’s resources while adequate workspaces will allow for proper maintenance without the need to outsource repairs.
“The DPW project is really for the infrastructure of the town and for the employees,” Bergeron said.
Simmons added, “The public doesn’t necessarily see if there’s a blizzard and it’s 1 a.m and a spring breaks on a plow and they need to fix it having the facility to do that in can save a lot of time and money.”