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Letter to the Editor: Senior Center Location, Funding Decisions Should Be a Public Process

The best solution as to where to locate the town's Senior Center and how to fund it may be from a broad-based committee.

 

In June, a group of concerned Dedham citizens met with the Board of Selectmen to voice our concerns about the process used to determine whether or not to build a Senior Center on the grounds of the historic Endicott Estate.  We feel strongly that Dedham needs a Senior Center but the process to create a Senior Center should be addressed in a transparent and public process.

Committees have been organized in the past to research and recommend to the Town, proposals for the siting of and funding for a Senior Center. Unfortunately, none of these committees has been successful in convincing the town residents of the merits of their proposals. One of the reasons there has not been town-wide support for any of the past proposals is that the process thus far has been flawed. 

The past committees have largely been people affiliated with the Council on Aging and senior groups. A small private committee representing one or two interest groups cannot garner town-wide consensus and support. It seems evident that we should expand that base of support to include people from across town and from all interest groups. The best solution as to where to locate the Center and how to fund it would most likely come from a broad-based committee. 

We have been told that a group of people met at the grounds of the and decided that the estate would be the best location for a Senior Center in Dedham. We have also been told that there are one or more anonymous donors who are willing to donate the funds to build the Center. 

As a result of these anticipated donations, a private foundation has been established to accept the donations. As a town, we should not permit a private entity or a small group to decide the size and location of public buildings.

While it is encouraging that private donors are willing to assist Dedham in building a Senior Center, we should all be careful not to allow generous donors to decide where our public buildings are located and how our tax money should be spent.    

Since public resources (our town land) will be used as a location for this proposed building and public resources (our tax dollars) will be used to operate the building, a public process should be followed to make the decisions about locating and funding a public building. Through a public process, the members of a committee who will make the recommendation decisions should be publicly appointed, not privately self-appointed. Through a public process, the committee meetings should be posted as are all Town committee meetings, held in public and the matters discussed at these meetings should be recorded with public meeting minutes. 

In other words, a committee that makes a recommendation to build on town land and to use town resources should be appointed in a public process and should adhere to all requirements of the Open Meeting Law. 

Within the last 10 years, two new schools have been built in Dedham. These buildings and the funding for the buildings were approved by the voters of Dedham. These projects had both town consensus and town support. The School Building Rehab Committee, which was charged with recommending the best fiscal and site situations for the new schools was comprised of four Town meeting members appointed by the Moderator, two school committee members or their designees, one member of the Board of Selectmen or a designee, one member of the Finance Committee or a designee and one member of the Capital Expenditures Committee or a designee. The SBRC is a very successful committee. It is a committee of townspeople with differing interests, talents and knowledge. It would seem the School Building Rehab Committee is a successful model to replicate. The same type of committee is needed to create town-wide consensus for the location and funding of a Senior Center.

As involved Dedham citizens, we want to see a Senior Center built sooner rather than later, but we would like to see that it is built and located with Town approval. To that end, we are preparing for Town Meeting’s approval an article to create a Senior Center Site Committee to see that an open and public process is followed that will allow Dedham to have a Senior Center once and for all.

Sincerely,

Kevin Mawe

Dave Sheehan

Mark Lawton

Liz and Joe Tavalone

Dave and Gerri Roberts

Noreen July 25, 2012 at 02:54 PM
I, for one, am in favor of the Senior Center being built on the Endicott Estate property. What better place to build, with its wide open space, library within walking distance and accessibility to all the wonderful goings on at the Estate? Many of the elderly would love nothing more than to be able to participate in the activities that the rest of us take for granted. We're able to walk or drive to the Endicott Estate whenever we want. Many elderly would love to be able to do the same, but don't drive or are unable to walk far enough on their own. Wouldn't it be gratifying to see an elderly person being able to take out their favorite book from the library, or come to a concert at the Estate, all within a short, manageable walking distance? It would bring them out (which many have a difficult time doing otherwise) and get them back into the community where they feel more connected. Many elderly people withdraw from the community as they age, believing they're not wanted any more because they're "too old." Well this is far from the truth! The elderly have so much wisdom to share with us and I firmly believe, if they’re able to come and go more independently or with little assistance, they can mingle with younger people at venues such as the library and on the grounds of the Estate. Please give the elderly a place they can enjoy (on the grounds of the Endicott Estate) for as long as we have them around to enjoy and learn from. They deserve it!
Edna July 25, 2012 at 06:03 PM
The letter writers are not objecting to having the senior center on the Estate. They're just objecting to having town land developed based on the wishes of private developers, without public input. Consenus is better than controversy, as we learned from the bunny scandal. So let's create the committee as requested, and the COA and seniors can lobby for the site to be on the Endicott Estate. There are many very good arguments for it to be built there!
matt anderson July 25, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Seriously...if I was a senior I would be so offended on so many fronts by this comment...yes, let's build a multi-million dollar structure and destroy the current grand grounds of the EE so that a 'senior' can take a book out of the library? or 'mingle' with 'the young people' on the property (WTF?)...because this fantasy building will now allow seniors to go to the library or walk around the EE property, or wander though the greenhouses...seriously? How many have ever been to the existing greenhouses? Stop using this as part of your argument...and let's get real about 'using an existing structure (the barn)' so that the foot print is not as large. If the seniors voted down using the Avery school because it was 'not suitable' or walking up the hill would be too strenuous, you all seriously think that the 'barn' is going to be magically useful as this proposed and entitled palatial senior center? Stop talking about 'the barn' as the new senior center...you all sound like a bunch of idiots....get some reasonable arguments, and stop saying things like "the seniors deserve their own yoga rooms..." Seriously? So would I!

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