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Town Votes 'Yes' on Senior Center Site Committee

After an intense debate Monday night, Article 7 was approved after a vote of 108-103.

The location of a new senior center has been an issue in Dedham for almost 30 years. And Monday night's debate was a clear indicator that a lot of residents are losing their patience.

"I'm embarrassed that we didn't [approve the senior center], after all this time," resident Robert Chaffee said. "The process is underway lets not make our seniors wait any longer."

But one of the main issues for many residents was the "lack of community involvement" in the process of the project. Many said they believed that a location should have been decided after a Town Hall Meeting, not before.

Article 7 will create a Senior Center Site Committee, which will allow Dedham residents to be involved with the planning process.

According to the article, the committee will "make a recommendation as to the rehabilitation and/or expansion of current town buildings or construction of a new town building for a Senior Center."

During the meeting, members of the Council of Aging said they felt that the article would only cause more delays, and that the Endicott Estate would be the best location for the center.

Leanne Jassett, the Chairperson for the council, said she believes that using the Endicott Estates would be the most economical.

"We would be using a building that is already in need of repair, whether or not this article passes," she said. "We should not tolerate the 'not in my backyard' mentality."

Susan Fay has always been against the idea of having a Senior Center at the Endicott Estate. But she still believes that Dedham is in need of a facility.

"We are also disappointed that the senior center has not been successful," Fay said.  "But we should not put efforts in a decision that would fail years from now."

Fay explained the need for community input and in-depth planning before anyone breaks ground.

Vice Chairman Mike Butler supported the idea of involving the Building, Planning and Construction Committee (BPPC) because their involvement was able to help with the new police station. And he reminded the town that plans for a Senior Center would still be delayed because no one raised any money or offered any in-depth analysis for the project.

"There is no formal proposal," Butler said. "And there are a lot of things that still needs to be defined."

Now that Article 7 is approved a committee will be made to raise $50,000 to research "findings and recommendations" for the Dedham Senior Center project. The town set a deadline for the reports to be ready by the 2014 Annual Town Hall Meeting for discussion.

But some residents, like Elizabeth Martin, are hoping to see developments as soon as possible.

"If we don't support a modest option for a senior center, then there will be no senior center in my lifetime, or for most of the members in this room," Martin said.

Edna November 20, 2012 at 05:37 PM
The selectmen really failed the Council on Aging here. It was clear that they wanted to follow a good process, but were not given direction, despite asking many times. S I think almost everyone at the meeting wanted the same outcome. I think the YES vote was ultimately a vote for a funded committee to start right away vs having to wait for the town administrator's committee to request funding in May.
Jack November 20, 2012 at 06:48 PM
So the town will spend $50,000 that the COA already paid to research? Wasn't the plan to privately fund the senior center, and now TM wants the town to pay for it? Who was holding the gun, and whose foot was hit? What was wrong with the Endicott Estate barn? There is something fishy here.
Fred Civian November 21, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Jack, a few comments. The COA study only looked at one site; the Article 7 committee will look at multiple locations. The COA proposal (8600 sq ft) was bigger than just the barn. TM took no position on how it will be funded. Fred
Jack November 21, 2012 at 07:54 PM
The last study only looked at one site, but, in the last 5 years, how many different sites have been looked at or considered? Dexter, Avery, the Estate itself etc. The COA put a plan together that worked, was paid for, and would improve the look of a town-owned property. The possibilities of programming between seniors and the library would have been endless. It's a mistake to drag this out further and to delay, delay, delay. But it is proof of priorities of certain selectmen. How many studies and years did it take for the arts center to take hold. One study. One year. The senior center? Countless studies and 30 years. It's not that the town government moves slow... it just moves slow and drags its feet when it opposes something, but is too chicken to admit it.
Dan Teahan November 21, 2012 at 10:07 PM
What the Article Seven vote told the COA was simple: The Town will tell you where, when, how much $, but we are willing for you to pay for it.
Fred Civian November 21, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Jack . . . in the last 30 years the COA is 0 for 7 or 8 . Are you sayng that all the Selectmen for all those years really didn't want a senior center?
karen February 28, 2013 at 05:40 PM
how about a public meeting to let everyone know that the council on aging has not asked the town for the money but plans to raise the money at no cost to the tax payers. the few people who view the endicott estate location as undesirable have somehow managed to now cost the taxpayers $50K . this doesn't make sense.

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