Will Dedham finally see a senior center?
After years of trying, Council on Aging Board chairwoman Leanne Jasset is hoping so after next Monday's Special Town Meeting.
“It’s probably been 30 years that the town has been trying to build a senior center in Dedham,” Jasset said.
“Some of it has to do with funding, but most of it has to do with the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) scenario. And most every neighborhood that it’s been proposed in the neighbors have been very outspoken about why they don’t want it there,” she said.
Jasset and the Dedham Senior Center Foundation - a non-profit organization formed to raise funds for the construction of a senior center in town - believe that the ideal location for a center would be at the Endicott Estate.
In 2011 the group raised $50,000 in private funds to do a feasibility study of the Endicott grounds. The study showed that converting and expanding the old barn on the property would be best suited for a senior center.
The study, done by Dore & Whittier Architects of Newburyport, called for a 8,662-square-foot one story center at a cost of about $4 million.
According to Jasset, opponents of the plan did not want to see a senior center built on the estate property and wanted to seek other options.
In last November's Special Town Meeting Article 7 passed, which formed a Senior Center Site Committee comprised of nine members to explore all options in the town for building a center, rather than looking at only the Endicott Estate.
The article also appropriated $50,000 for the committee for a feasibility study of their own.
Jasset said sees the passing of the article as a waste of resources.
“Most people are very angry to think that $50,000 of hard earned taxpayers' money is being used to do something that’s already been done,” she said. “Think about what $50,000 could do.”
After Article 7 passed, a petition was filed for a new article to readdress the issue at the Special Town Meeting April 8.
A new article was drafted - Article 3 - which asks to disband the site committee formed by Article 7 in November, rescind the $50,000 in appropriated funds and ask the town to build a senior center at the Endicott Estate using private funds.
“I am very cautiously hopeful that Article 3 will be approved,” Jasset said.
However, she admits they may face an uphill battle.
“It’s gotten divisive, it’s gotten personal, it’s gotten ugly,” she said. “It’s such an important and worthy cause and it’s gotten to the point where people aren’t speaking to one another, people are angry. That makes me very sad. It shouldn’t be about that.”
“Make no bones about it, there are lots and lots of needs. But it’s been 30 years so it’s time that the senior center went on the priority list," she said.
The Special Town Meeting will be Monday, April 8 at 7 p.m. at Dedham High School.