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New Canton senior center could be on the horizon in 2013

Posted by Dave Eisenstadter  January 18, 2013 09:49 AM

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After a decade of pouring money into spaces for its Town Hall, police station, fire station and Public Works Department, the past piece of the puzzle for Canton is upgrading its senior center, according to Town Administrator William T. Friel.

Located in the basement of Canton Housing Authority senior housing at 660 Washington Street for the past 25 years, the senior center is too small for its needs, according to Council on Aging Director Diane Tynan.

“We’ve just outgrown it,” Tynan said Wednesday. “Many of our programs now are off site, our exercise programs and larger groups that take place. It would be nice to have things housed under one roof.”

That roof may be located at 500 Pleasant St., a former Knights of Columbus building the town now owns, Friel said. The town purchased the building during 2012 for $450,000, he said.

A design firm has been recently hired by the town’s Building Renovation Committee, Friel said. He estimated the renovation would cost about $1.5 million, but added that the Building Renovation Committee might come back with a higher amount if they decided the project could use an addition.

There is already $400,000 put away for the project by Town Meeting. The town also has $3.1 million from previous year revenues, some of which could be assigned to the project with a Town Meeting vote, Friel said.

He expects a vote on an appropriation this year, when the design firm returns with an estimate.

The money would be well spent, Tynan said. The Council on Aging conducts more than 100 programs, including transportation, meals, health insurance counseling, fitness, recreation, and many others, she said.

Popular programs, such as the Monday and Thursday aerobics classes, grew beyond the space available at the Washington Street basement. Now with 30 regular participants, the classes take place at the Blue Hills Wellness Center, Tynan said.

Having such programs offsite makes it difficult to keep track of them, especially in terms of attendance, she said.

The Council on Aging runs on a $210,000 per year budget, according to Tynan. She said the Housing Authority had been generous in allowing the senior center to stay in the basement and pay only maintenance, but that a bigger building is needed.

In previous years with senior center proposals, Tynan has heard perceptions that the majority of people who use the center are coming from the senior housing above the senior center. That is not true, she said.

“The majority come from out in the community that either get her through transportation or through their own means,” Tynan said.

That causes an issue with parking, of which there are only 11 spaces for the senior center, Tynan said.

As for the people who do use the center from the Senior Housing, she said there would be a bus service to the new facility if approved.

Tynan said she believes few people understood how many services are available through the Council on Aging. Tynan’s records show that many people are now using the services.

The council’s transportation program, bringing residents to shopping areas and medical appointments, represents about 8,000 trips per year. There were nearly 5,000 social services consultations. There were 15,000 people who checked in to the senior center over the past year, which did not include offsite programs or people who failed to check in.

“It’s not just bingo anymore,” Tynan said. “We’ve evolved into so much more and for people of all ages.”

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