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Much needed Senior Center becoming reality

By Katelyn Gendron-List, Staff Writer

AGAWAM Tucked away on a side street the Agawam Senior Center, resides in a 30-year-old building in much need of repairs, however the Senior Center could be moving to an entirely new modernized location in the heart of Agawam.

The acceleration in the senior population has made the current location on Meadowbrook Manor too cramped for daily activities and the building's much-needed repairs, such as the flooded basement, would cost $1 million, according to Joan Linnehan, director of the Agawam Senior Center.

Citing the cost of renovations and expansion city officials have instead proposed a brand new $6 million Senior Center on Main Street.

At a special City Council meeting on July 16, Richard Cohen, mayor of Agawam, gave a presentation on the progress of the New Agawam Senior Center Building Project as well as additional information for the councilors to review before their next special meeting.

"This is a structure that is truly needed and will meet the needs of this growing population well into the future," Cohen said. "I believe that with hard work and everyone's input this will be the finest senior center in the area because it will have been done with everyone's help."

The town has made it a point to include the community in their efforts to construct the new facility via surveys and talks with current Senior Center employees so that the needs and wants of all those who utilize and work in the facility will be met, Cohen stated.

Members of the community have taken it upon themselves to raise funds for the new building. The Friends of the Agawam Senior Center have raised over $250,000 for the project, George Bitzas, Agawam city councilor, and vice chairman of the New Senior Center Building Committee, stated.

According to Douglas Goodman, architect at Reinhardt Associates, Inc., the proposed senior center will be a two-storied structure with the top level facing Main Street and the walkout lower level facing the Agawam Housing Authority Project.

The upper level will include the entrance lobby, administrative offices and two large multipurpose rooms for dances, classes and speeches. There will be separate facilities for arts and crafts, a library quiet area, a gift shop and a small coffee shop. Adjacent to the lobby there will be a sizeable billiard area, which is a very popular program at the existing senior center, Goodman said.

The lower level will include an exercise room, a health suite, dining room and the kitchen facilities. The majority of the parking will be located on this level as well as brick walkways connecting the facility to the Agawam Housing Authority Project.

"The new building will be twice as big and we'll be able to double up on our programs because right now we can only schedule one or two programs [in this building,]" Linnehan said. "Right now we have to move dining tables and chairs in order to make room for programs. The best part of the new building will be having the open meeting room and separate rooms [for every activity]."

Unlike the current building, which is owned by the Agawam Housing Authority, Linnehan stated, the new senior center will be owned by the town.

Richard Theroux, Agawam City Clerk, and chairman of the of the New Senior Center Building Committee, stated that the land on Main Street was purchased by the town several years ago. The town has recently been in negotiations with the state and now have an agreement with the Agawam Housing Authority to tie in parking and walkways to the Senior Housing Project.

"There's a timeline which we want to get out for construction and and contracts and it's time that we get this project started," Theroux said. "We will have a great facility and I'm excited to see it completed."

According to Bitzas, the City Council will be holding another special meeting on Aug. 27, where the council will vote on whether or not to approve the funding for the new facility.

"We want to devote a whole special meeting to this issue because it is such an important issue for Agawam and its citizens," Bitzas said. "We wait and we wait for the paperwork and I emphasize to the Council that we don't delay so that we can move to the next step in the project."

Bitzas also stated that the construction of the new senior center is estimated as a 14 to 16 month project and he hopes that the project will break ground in September.

"I'm looking forward to the groundbreaking," Linnehan said. "I will be totally thrilled. My seniors are so excited because they are looking at the last chapter in their lives and they don't know how long they have left. They are anxious and I'm anxious for them."