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Scituate selectmen shoot down hope for senior center at community building

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 18, 2012 07:01 PM

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Selectmen have shot down another proposal to turn Scituate's community building into a senior center, despite calls to do so at a meeting on Tuesday night.

According to Ellem Bernardi, who made a presentation to selectmen in favor of a senior center, turning the community building -- which is the former Pier 44 building -- into a “new home” for the seniors makes the most sense for the town.

“One day in the future towns structure will be realized, but there has to be funding and fund-raising…meanwhile we have a population waiting in the wings since early 1990, to find a home away from home that wont turn them away and will encourage health, activity, and joyful life,” she said.

According to research done by Bernardi, a comparison between the 2000 and 2010 census shows a growth in the senior population – from 3,597 seniors to 4,664. Meanwhile the overall population has only increased minimally – from 17,863 in 2000 to 17,985 in 2010.

“There has been little change in the total population in last 10 years, but the greatest change is senior population, and this demographic will continue to rise according to stat data,” she said.

Bernardi further outlined the issues with the present senior space, which include space constraints and a lack of amenities.

Although the survey for the old Pier 44 building showed more of a preference for open space and an all-inclusive community center, Bernardi said that majority of seniors couldn’t take the survey because they don’t know how to use the Internet.

Additionally, despite assertions by the board that a senior center wasn’t a viable option to the building due to MBTA restrictions, Bernardi said she found out otherwise.

“When the terms were reviewed with me by the mitigation representative, his comment was a senior center WOULD fit the parameters [of the MBTA contract for the property,” Bernardi said.

Bernardi proposed a motion to make the building the new senior center, a declaration that was followed by silence from selectmen.

When Bernardi pressed for a response, selectmen reaffirmed that the primary option at this time was to include a senior center as part of the town’s master plan.

Even if selectmen wanted to vote on the motion tonight, they couldn’t, as it would be a violation of open meeting law.

“I think overall all of us realize there is a need for a senior building and a senior place to go. We’ve talked about this 100 times,” Selectman Tony Vegnani said. “We’re on the same page…the building can be used immediately for senior activities and when we put in money to improve it, it would be available to the seniors a great deal of the time. [But] it will be able to be used by all sections of the community and won't be segregated by anyone.”

Although the center is open to senior activities presently, seniors have been getting kicked out as of late for town programming, Bernardi said. Furthermore, it isn’t a true home for seniors.

Still, officials said it wouldn’t be fair to other groups in town, especially the Recreation Department, which services over 3,000 kids in town.

Selectmen Chairman Joseph Norton said the officials in town would make a decision regarding the future of the building most likely in the fall.

At that time, officials would chose whether to renovate the building, tear the building down for open space, or build a new building on the site and tear the existing building down – options presented to selectmen in April.

One thing is for certain, however; the building would not be the new senior center, selectmen said.

“The outcome may be better than what you think…I think it will move quickly nin the right direction,” Vegnani said.

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