Seekonk senior center case made as vote nears BY JOSEPH S. SIEGEL FOR THE SUN CHRONICLE Friday, January 23, 2009 2:20 AM EST
SEEKONK - A special election to decide the fate of a $5.1 million senior community center will be held on Monday, Jan. 26.
Voters will be asked to approve a form of the state's Proposition
2 1/2 tax-limiting law, a temporary tax hike called a debt exclusion, to pay for the senior center. Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. at the town's four precincts.
Advocates for the project say a new, larger facility is desperately needed.
The staff of the town's council on aging currently operates out of offices on the second floor of a school building at 320 Pleasant St. The building also houses Seekonk Human Services, which provides fuel assistance, food, prescription assistance, and counseling services to people in the community. The building is several years old, has wooden floors, and is populated by teachers and staff of the Southcoast Educational Collaborative. A receptionist and four senior aides share cramped office space with two senior volunteers. There is a lot of noise, and little privacy.
"It's deplorable," said Veronica Brickley, one of the agency's outreach case managers. Brickley described a "cacophony of sound" in the office, which causes difficulty for the senior citizens who are hard of hearing.
The council on aging offers many educational courses, consisting of financial and health information. And, the clients taking the courses have increased dramatically in recent years. "Our numbers have tripled," said Jan Tabor, an outreach case manager.
A lack of space is a problem, according to Tabor: "We see a lot of people. We don't have the room for them."
Human Services has a food pantry stocked with lots of canned goods, and handles referrals for Doorways, which provides food for needy residents. People who are eligible for the WIC (Women Infants and Children) program are referred to facilities in Attleboro and Taunton due to the limited space.
There is a kitchen, which Tabor said is not large enough for preparing meals. The COA doesn't have the capacity to run a Meals on Wheels program. In addition, the temperatures in the kitchen fluctuate wildly, from sweltering heat to ice-cold.
There is no elevator, so seniors who have trouble climbing stairs must use a chairlift attached to the stair railing. The building entrance is "always blocked", Tabor said.
Two large doghouses, built by students attending the Southcoast Collaborative, were placed at the entranceway. On a recent day, huge sheets of ice and snow coated the parking lot and sidewalk in back of the building.
"You become used to the conditions," said Tabor. "It's pretty sad where we are."
Tabor believes the time is right for a new building to be constructed to meet the needs of the town's seniors. A building which is safe, roomy, and which allows privacy. "They deserve a comfortable place to talk," Tabor added. The Senior Center Building Committee will be presenting one final question-and-answer forum about the proposed senior community center. It will be from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Joseph S. Siegel covers Seekonk for The Sun Chronicle.
Last edited by Admin on Fri Jan 23, 2009 12:35 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Edited to reinstall filtered words. Filter adjusted.)
Are my eyes deceiving me or does it say 'fuel crap, prescription crap' - is there a meaning to crap that I don't know about???
The staff of the town's council on aging currently operates out of offices on the second floor of a school building at 320 Pleasant St. The building also houses Seekonk Human Services, which provides fuel crap, food, prescription crap, and counseling services to people in the community. The building is several years old, has wooden floors, and is populated by teachers and staff of the Southcoast Educational Collaborative. A receptionist and four senior aides share cramped office space with two senior volunteers. There is a lot of noise, and little privacy.
I would urge the voters of Seekonk to vote NO on Monday. This is absolutely not the time to be taking on more debt, both one-time for the building and ongoing for the maintenance and utilities. We should re-visit this when the economy improves. RI unemployment rate reached 10% and many of us living in Seekonk work in RI.
If we do build this Taj Mahal, I hope there's a big room allocated to feed and shelter the newly homeless.
Seekonk senior center on line BY JOSEPH S. SIEGEL FOR THE SUN CHRONICLE Sunday, January 25, 2009 1:49 AM EST
SEEKONK - Voters will decide on Monday whether to approve a debt exclusion for a $5.1 million senior center.
The impact on homeowners would be minimal, according to Don Kinniburgh, the head of the senior center building committee.
Kinniburgh explained a debt exclusion is different from an override, because an override permanently increases the tax rate while a debt exclusion is temporary.
The highest amount assessed in taxes would be $44 per house, based on a median home price of $289,000.
The 10,000-square-foot facility, to be constructed on the land behind town hall, will serve as a community center. Various organizations will be able to use the building for meetings and other events. Kinniburgh said the council on aging building on Pleasant Street was "old and dilapidated," adding that "people don't bother to go because they can't climb the stairs."
Committee member Richard Perry noted the senior center would serve multiple uses, including a base of operations for Meals On Wheels, the WIC program, and possibly the veterans agent.
Perry noted the cost could end up being lower than $5.1 million, if the state gave the committee a building grant for the project.
Critics of the project have been vocal about their reservations, particularly Selectman Robert Richardson supports a new center but thinks the cost is too high and that a debt exclusion amounts to a "tax hike" on residents.
Arthur Foulkes, who has his own show on Cable 9, believes the cost is "absurd."
"The community deserves a much more cost-effective project," Foulkes said.
Foulkes noted that the recent question and answer forums held by the building committee regarding the project should have been held months earlier so the community could have been able to provide their input.
Foulkes believes the state or federal government might provide funding for the center even if the voters reject the debt exclusion.
"We may be able to build this building at a significantly reduced cost than what (the building committee) have proposed," Foulkes added.
Polling places The polling places will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Voters may cast ballots:
Precinct 1 - North School, North Street.
Precinct 2 - Seekonk Public Library, Newman Avenue.
Precinct 3 - Town Hall, Peck Street (off Route 44).
Seekonk voters say no to senior center BY JOE SIEGEL FOR THE SUN CHRONICLE Tuesday, January 27, 2009 2:19 AM EST
Tax hike rejected
SEEKONK - There will be no tax increase to pay for a new senior center. At least for now.
Voters in a special election Monday soundly rejected a $5.1 million Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion for a senior center by a vote of 912 to 463.
A total of 1,378, or 14.6 percent of the town's 9,454 eligible voters, braved the cold winter temperatures to cast ballots.
The 10,000-square-foot facility would have been constructed in the back of town hall on Peck Street.
Supporters of the project said a new building was needed for the town's elderly population. The current facility on Pleasant Street has been criticized for its dilapidated condition and its shortage of space. Don Kinniburgh, head of the senior center building committee, acknowledged the declining economy was a major factor in the vote.
"We gave 100 percent," Kinniburgh said of the work the committee had done.
Critics rapped cost
Critics of the project included selectman Robert Richardson, who complained the price tag was too expensive. Richardson had urged the committee to scale back the cost of the project.
Selectman Francis Cavaco, a member of the building committee, also believed the cost was "too high."
"There was nothing wasted in that building," Kinniburgh said, noting the $5.1 million figure was not exorbitant.
Despite the vote, a new senior center is still a possibility.
Selectmen may put the issue on the ballot for April's annual town election.
Meanwhile, Cavaco remains determined to find a new place for the seniors to congregate.
Would there be zoning issues with this property? What about the septic system capacity? That could be a large expense if the septic system has to be redone to accommodate 100 or more people at normal events that would be held there.
I am totally in favor of seriously looking at this property for the Senior Center. It is pretty centrally located, on one level, with 14 acres, has enough BR's that can be easily converted to offices, a large kitchen, and a large open area for tables and chairs for dining, activities, etc. For about 3 million we may be able to get the center purchased, converted to office space, restrooms upgraded for accessibility, wired for communications, furnished, and also gain 14 acres of property.
Does anyone know if there are any restrictions on the 14 acres of land with respect to wetlands, etc.? Could the Town later build an outdoor event facility on the land for concerts, etc? That's something I'm sure would become a NIMBY issue.
What about looking at some of the buildings that are now or are about to be vacant?
There are buildings that housed Linen's-n-things or that now house Circuit City which are designed to be wheelchair accessible, have giant parking lots and wide open floorplans which provide an open slate for an interior customization.
'A total of 1,378, or 14.6 percent of the town's 9,454 eligible voters, braved the cold winter temperatures to cast ballots.
The 10,000-square-foot facility would have been constructed in the back of town hall on Peck Street.'
Let's see .. only 1,378 voters, (14.6% of eligible voters) could be bothered to vote at 4 convenient neighborhood locations in their respective parts of town on a facility that would be built and used in central Seekonk behind Town Hall - one mile from the Seekonk High School - where North and South end voters allegedly stayed away from on April 6th because of the distance or inconvenience to get to the polling location?
How many current and future seniors is this Senior/Community Center really going to serve? How many of us will be willing or able to travel to this center in our extremes of New England weather? Will we build a $3.5 - 5 million building for use only by those within a mile or two of it?
That's the thing Terry. Very few people voted. In the 3 days leading up to this, my biggest gripe was that no one new that the special election was taking place. I was at my sons basketball game the Saturday before the election, and I was asked by another parent if we knew what we were voting for on Monday.
So these are my conspiracy theories...
1) It was probably kept under wraps because the planners knew that there would be strong opposition.
2) It was planned at the last minute because the BOS wanted it to fail
3) Nobody bothered to even tell the seniors the day that the special election was being held....or
4) The seniors did know the special election was being held and they voted down their own center.
Furthermore....as I was crash coursing the details in about a day and a half, I was stunned by some of the numbers, and some of the details that were driving the cost up unnecessarily.
For example....we were paying the architect I think a little over a half a million dollars. Now he may also have been acting as the PM, but that seems excessive. The town also would not allow the senior center to use the road leading into the town hall or the police/fire station (i forget which) but the result was that they were going to have to build their own road!
The other problem is that there was no definite cost because I don't think the plans had even been finalized. (Actually....there may not have been plans when we voted to put it on the ballot in Town Meeting) One or the other.
Either way...in the future i think it would be smart to reject the proposals in town meeting until the people proposing the project have a realistic, and verifiable cost scenario. even if that means approving money to have engineering plans drawn up for the project in advance. It will save us a lot of guessing and surprises in the long run.