Sunday, August 14, 2016

New Longmeadow Adult Center

This article was submitted by the Longmeadow Adult Center Building Committee (ACBC) summarizing results of a Focus Group Meeting held with a group of Longmeadow residents on August 3, 2016

Approximately 50 Longmeadow residents from a variety of constituent groups attended a focus meeting on August 3, 2016 at the current Greenwood Adult Center at 251 Maple Road to discuss the siting and construction of a new senior center in Longmeadow. Included were Select Board members; Longmeadow officials and employees, seniors, sports parents, other town committee members, site neighbors; Adult Center officials and board members; FOLOCA (Friends of Longmeadow Older Citizens Association) representatives; ACBC committee members; media and other interested community members. Presented by the Adult Center Building Committee (ACBC), the eleven member group chaired by Marybeth Bergeron, were on hand to inform residents of the group’s progress in identifying various sites in Longmeadow conducive to locating an appropriate building site.

Joining Marybeth at the front table were ACBC members. They were Phil Hallahan, co-chair, Fred VanDerhoof and Tim McKenna, the evening’s presenters and Pat Burden, secretary and recorder.  She also called attention to present Select Board members Mark Gold, Bill Low and Marie Angelides who serves as liaison for ACBC and thanked them for attending. She announced that the focus meeting format would be a formal presentation by committee members, a Q&A session following the presentations and a brief survey distributed for input. Also, that the evening’s meeting was televised on local cable TV.

She explained that ACBC consists of 11 community members who represent all aspects of life and possess years of experience regarding the project. The members’ mission is to identify a suitable site to construct a suitable adult center that will be presented to the Select Board before its first meeting in September. If approved, it will be presented to the broader community at the November town meeting.  It was stressed that ACBC members represented all present and input was of most important.  “We want your input,” Marybeth declared. She emphasized the importance of transparency and the significance of neighborhood and political impact.

Bergeron commended the committee for their diligence, many hours and commitment to the process. She highlighted the amount of work executed by the committee such as: meetings with historic commission, library trustees, town manager, conservation professionals, athletic directors, park and rec officials, DPW and others. They studied site maps, deeds, plans, Article 97, field use and non-use, even the original Frederick Low Olmstead designs (which in some cases have not been completed or terribly neglected). They have explored open space noting the 1/3 of Longmeadow is “open space” and therefore available for recreational use.

She addressed: “Why a new adult center?” Presently there is approximately 8K square feet used at Greenwood Center that is shared with food pantry; meals on wheels; veterans administration; FOLOCO; health services; outreach senior services;  senior programming and activities; administration and staff. Formerly an elementary school, the corridors are long, restrooms designed for children located a distance away, privacy compromised, limited parking, hidden asbestos and hazardous waste issues, space stretched to the limit!

Bergeron added that East Longmeadow Senior Center at 15k square feet is presently stretched for space. She noted a fact that, here in Longmeadow, there are more 60 and over folks than there are under 16 youngsters. With the onset of the baby boomers and the particular needs of the group, many area senior centers are emerging- Agawam/ Hampden/ East Longmeadow/Wilbraham (upcoming)/ Westfield and Chicopee.  By 2030 a 30% increase in senior population is anticipated. “Seniors want to age in place, stay at home, live and function at home.  It is fruitful and rewarding.  We need a larger center. Let’s get ahead of the curve!”

She stated that the task at hand was to explore and recommend a suitable site. There were eight: Greenwood Park; Turner Park-Site 1 and 2; Wolf Swamp fields; Academy Water Tower; Laurel Park; Bliss Park and Cordis/ Library property. Each site was thoroughly examined…deed restrictions, Parkland infrastructure, sport fields specification, impact on town, impact on neighbors, historical aspects, conservation restrictions, ponds and wetlands, political impact, favorable for building aspects, enhancement to sites.

Four are off the table: Wolf Swamp, Academy-Water Tower, Greenwood Park, Turner Park-Site 2. Wolf Swamp/political impact and preservation of fields for youth; Turner Park-Site 2/wetlands; Greenwood Park/loss of fields, cost of renovation, code requirements and relocation of activities including Park and Rec, and Day Care shared space; Academy-Water Tower/too large at 10 acres and impact on highly populated neighborhood with potential house construction and taxable benefits for town. Still on the table are: Turner Park-Site 1; Laurel Park; Bliss Park; Cordis/Library.

Fred VanDerhoof was called on to explore Turner Park, Laurel Park and Bliss Park, all of which are doable properties. He exhibited colored maps to locate the properties.  He highlighted Turner Park’s amenities including extensive trails, beautiful pond, trees, serenity, location to existing fields and opportunities for intergenerational activity.  He stated that kayaking , fishing, biking, hiking on improved trails are some of the favorable features. Also, sharing the facility with the town with use of rest rooms, meeting spaces, food concession, paved parking enhances its value to townsfolks.

Fred then identified Laurel Park as a “nice piece of property”…gorgeous hiking trails, serene pond, waterfall and its hidden beauty and environment for locating a new adult center, “a good feel to it.”  He went on to state that favorable location to Bliss Park, Police and Fire Department and center of town accommodates senior needs and activities. And its present state of neglect would be remedied.

Bliss Park, Fred reported, has great synergy and opportunity.  Pool, tennis courts, walking trails, proximity to town; little infringement on neighbors adds to its favorability. Public restrooms, presently closed, would be accessible. Site improvement of trails, lighting and paved parking would enhance the property for all to enjoy.

Tim McKenna was called on to report on the Cordis/ Library Property. Using a lighted pointer, he touted the center’s potential location on the central artery, close to the “heart of town.”  The availability of public transportation, location of town offices, additional public parking for town events adds to its desirability. It is flat, adjacent to churches, perhaps some wetlands with Meadowbrook, tight but with careful site planning and sensitive design to the other properties on campus, the overall project  provides an opportunity for the town  “looking back and looking forward. “

He went on to say:  It is, however, necessary to acquire the Cordis properties at an approximate cost of $1 million. These reconstituted properties could be resold or retained for town use which direly needs more office space. At any rate, it is an opportunity for the town of Longmeadow, he stated.

Thus concluded the formal presentations and Marybeth opened the floor to questions:

Where will they be sited?... Depends on each site and architect’s design in balance with site.
Will fields be impacted on Cordis site?...Strople Field will not be touched.
Will Cordis be torn down?...Absolutely not.
Will Casino traffic affect the choice?...Not known what Casino traffic will entail and at what times of day. A traffic study is pending.

Ernie Welker, Audit Committee member, reports that the town is in trouble financially and cannot afford a new center.  He suggested that Greenwood Park be renovated regardless of losing playing fields. Eleanor Stolar reiterated the importance of addressing seniors’ needs and having them stay in Longmeadow.

Jim Russell asked to be recognized. He clarified the fact that ½ of 1% of the town budget is directed the Adult Center annually.  He advocated that a need for privacy for veterans is evident and constructing a new center rather than renovating the present center even without unknown infrastructure issues is less costly.

The prepared surveys, whereby attendees could make comments and/or chose preferred sites, were distributed. Providing ones name was optional. Surveys were collected and will be analyzed before the  next committee meeting Thursday, August 11 at 7 p.m. All meetings are open to the public.

The next Adult Center Building Committee (ACBC) Focus Meeting will be held at Greenwood Park Adult Center on Wednesday, August 24 at 3 PM. Once again the public is invited.

The televised meeting of August 3 can be seen on the following dates:
Air dates on LCTV 12 (Longmeadow only)

Monday (August 15) at Noon,
Wednesday (August 17) at 7 PM
Thursday (August 18) at 7 PM
Saturday (August 20) at 2 PM
Sunday (August 21) at 7 PM

It can also be viewed 24/7 on LCTV's YouTube Channel.  Here is the video...

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