August 21, 2019

Boards Uncertain Over Seekonk Senior Center Use

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The Seekonk Board of Selectmen and the building committee have not yet determined what to do with the unused space in the town’s senior center at 540 Arcade Avenue. The first floor is used for the seniors and the human services department. The building’s upper floor is currently unoccupied. The total building size is 6000 square feet.

Members of the building committee discussed various proposals on Wednesday with the board, but no consensus was reached.  Voters at the November 2018 town meeting appropriated $50,000 for the development of plans for Phase two of the senior center.  Chairwoman Michelle Hines said options under consideration include providing an office for the Parks and Recreation Director, a conference room, enlarging the nurse’s office, and storage space for the Human Services Director and the Veterans Agent.

The school department had shown interest in using some of the building for classrooms, Hines noted. "The committee did not think it would be a good fit over there,” Hines explained. "The committee isn’t going to waste money doing something that’s not feasible at this point.”

Selectmen expressed their frustrations with the work of the committee, noting there was a lack of research into how the space could be used and by whom. “We’ve got a basement full of plans that this town paid for and we never even put a shovel in the ground to build any of them,” said selectman David Viera, who had served as a committee member. “I don’t have a vested interest in what goes inside of there,” said selectmen chairman David Andrade. “My only vested interest is to make sure we’re exploring everything. The charge of the committee is to do that investigative work. I have a hard time moving forward without having looked at all the options.”

Andrade was concerned about the need for additional space for the school department in a few years time. A $10.5 million addition for Aitken Elementary School was approved at a recent town meeting. “We’re talking about needs now,” Viera said. “This building (town hall) is inadequate, the senior center is inadequate. We know we have the needs. They’re not wants, they’re needs.”

Committee members voiced anger at their treatment by selectmen. “I feel a little disheartened,” said Noah Escaler, who also serves on the school committee. “In a way, you’re undermining five committee members including the town administrator and then tomorrow maybe asking for more volunteer of the town to do exactly what we’ve done as a committee and then face this type of ridicule.”

“That is not the intent of what I am saying,” said Andrade. “All I’m saying is that 85 percent of the work was done but not all of it. I’m not knocking the work that was done.”

The building committee will meet again on August 27 to hold further discussions on plans for the senior center.

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