|By Katelyn Gendron-List|
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM After over 10 years of talks about the construction of a new Senior Center, on Aug. 27, the Agawam City Council voted in favor of the $6.4 million bond to fund the building of the new, much larger Senior Center on Main Street.
"The Senior Center is long overdue and I am so happy and excited that very soon we will be breaking ground," Richard Cohen, mayor of Agawam said. "We have significantly outgrown the current Senior Center and this new Senior Center will take us into the future and meet the needs of the ever-growing baby boomer population."
According to Cohen, the construction of a new Senior Center has been a part of the Capital Improvement Plan for the past 12 years. Projects such as the newly built Agawam Public Library and Department of Public Works were a part of the Capital Improvement Plan for much longer and were therefore built prior to the Senior Center, he added.
While the cost the new facility is estimated at over $6 million, the mayor said that there were nine contract bids starting at $5.4 million and any leftover funds would be returned to the City Council upon completion of the project.
Cohen stated that he has also been in talks with the offices of democratic Massachusetts state senators John Kerry, and Edward Kennedy in conjunction with Congressman Richard Neal, D-2nd District Mass., to receive federal assistance for the Senior Center.
However, according to a letter from Kennedy's office cutbacks in federal resources has made funding for the project unavailable this year, but funds maybe available next year.
But this has not deterred Cohen as he said that he will continue to pursue funding on the federal, as well as the state level.
The Senior Center project is eligible to receive a maximum of $600,000 in state funding, and anywhere between $500,000 and $800,000 in federal funding, according to Cohen.
"With the council approving the bonding and showing our commitment we have a good chance of getting funds," he said.
Regardless of how the funds for the construction of the new Senior Center are being acquired, Emile Cot , president of the Friends of the Agawam Senior Center could not help but to express his overwhelming excitement that the City Council had finally approved the bonding.
Cot , who has been working on fundraising for the new Senior Center for over three years now said, "I definitely feel that all my hard work has paid off but there's still a lot of work to do."
The Friends of the Agawam Senior Center have raised over $250,000 for furnishings for the new facility, and Cot added that they will continue to organize fundraisers well into next year.
While some Agawam residents are concerned about the effect that the new Senior Center will have on their taxes, Cohen said, "I know that this is a cost to all taxpayers but everything has a price tag. It's the cost of doing business and meeting the needs of our citizens."
George Bitzas, Agawam City councilor, stated that every penny spent on the new facility will be carefully spent making absolutely sure that the project will not go over budget.
"The seniors are on fixed incomes and they pay taxes too," he said. "They don't complain and it is worth it to pay a little extra. It is considered as an investment for ourselves, our parents, and our children. I want to make sure that we have one of the best Senior Centers with the lowest cost possible and one that we can be proud of for many generations."