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Salem officials hoping to reach vote on new senior center

Posted by Terri Ogan  March 12, 2013 01:39 PM

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After nearly 20 years of debate, Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll is hoping to get her proposal for a new senior center approved at a meeting Wednesday night, a project that she is calling long overdue.

The nearly $5 million project calls for a public/private development that would include offices, 273 parking spaces and a 20,000-square-foot facility, on a vacant parcel where a Sylvania plant once stood.

The current building, which is located at 5 Broad Street, is falling apart, Driscoll said.

“Really now the question is do we want to keep the current woefully inadequate center on Broad street or do we want to move forward with a new senior center,” Driscoll said. “Every other community on the North Shore has a newer community center than ours and it’s time for Salem to address the long-standing issue.”

At Wednesday night’s meeting, Driscoll will ask the city council to approve a bond to pay for the city’s $4.9 million share of the project, an issue, Driscoll added, that has sparked discussion among council members.

Eight councilors need to vote in favor of the bonding plan for the overall proposal to move forward.

The location of the center was approved by the city council in 2009, but some say city councilor members have begun to express angst regarding the project siting.

“I have no problem with the location, but there are some councilors and people in Salem that don’t like the location and would like to re-open the issue,” said Salem City Councilor at Large William Legault. “It’s not perfect but it’s been far too long of a debate; 20 years of discussion. It’s time to build a senior center.”

In 2009, various senior citizens and local officials formed the Senior Center Committee and identified three potential sites that would all be suitable for a new center.

Two of those sites are located in the Salem Willows neighborhood, and the third is the currently proposed project site at the corner of Boston and Bridge Street, which Driscoll said is the most cost-efficient.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people in support of it, but there are a couple of councilors that are hard to move,” said Denis Coleman, a member of the Senior Center Committee. “I hope that we get it done and get the center built. This is taking a long time to accomplish.”

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