Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM Several residents of Meadowbrook Manor said their fears that the construction of the new senior center on Main Street would turn their residence into a "parking lot" have abated.
Their reservations about the construction were alleviated last Tuesday by the presentation of the latest blueprints by Mayor Susan Dawson at the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meeting.
Dawson's presentation and question and answer session with the board and residents of Meadowbrook Manor -- an approximately 65-unit senior housing complex -- led to the board granting tentative approval for the project prior to the Board of Commissioners special meeting in February.
Dawson said she had refused to sign the $6 million bond for the senior center's construction until the board's approval, adding that she endorsed the funding Wednesday.
Carlton Standen, director of the Agawam Housing Authority, said concerns about the construction were a byproduct of the previous administration's reluctance to share definitive plans with the board.
Scott Macey, chair of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, said concerns for the residents of Meadowbrook Manor included the invasion of green space, parking of vehicles under tenant's windows, increased traffic and safety issues.
He said the latest plan "saves and protects the integrity of our agency and the safety of our residents."
Macey explained that the new parking lot will provide approximately 65 spaces for the senior center and about 65 for the Housing Authority and residents. Widened sidewalks, an increased number of handicapped parking spaces and lighting will also be constructed.
"The plan is a win-win for all of us," Standen said, adding that the new plans will not only help the new senior center but also improve the infrastructure of the Meadowbrook Manor property.
Standen said that an insufficient number of handicapped spots, particularly for Building One, has caused many residents to park along the grass or roadside. He explained that the new parking plan proposed by the town will "put in a new parking lot in front of Building One. That's where the real problem has been."
Dawson said in order to alleviate traffic and safety concerns, a new two-way access road to the senior center off of Main Street will ensure that minimal traffic flows through Wright Street.
"We're extremely pleased with the mayor's support and help understanding what our difficulties were [with the plans]," Macey said, adding that he is anticipating full approval of the plans at the Board of Commissioners special meeting next month.
Upon completion of the new senior center, Standen said the existing senior center -- leased to the town of Agawam by the Housing Authority for a cost of $1 per year -- will be converted into 10 to 12 handicapped housing units.
Standen explained that the housing authority has obtained a feasibility study grant for architectural design fees and that the entire conversion to the handicapped housing units should take about one year.