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Residents weigh in on new senior center

Date: 10/5/2010

Oct. 6, 2010

By Katelyn Gendron

Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- A 5,400 square-foot facility with a residential-style kitchen no longer meets the needs of the city's approximately 7,000 senior citizens.

Seniors, city officials and members of the Senior Center Building Committee gave their input at two visioning sessions for a new, larger center on Sept. 29.

"From my office to the City Council, everybody sees this needs to get done," Mayor Daniel Knapik said of the necessity for expansion.

Tina Gorman, interim director of the Council on Aging, called managing programming at the current center "challenging," noting that the Executive Office of Elder Affairs recommends a minimum 18,000-square-foot facility, three times the current space.

"We've been trying to do some Zumba classes but we have to move the tables and chairs to create the space," she explained of the center's tight quarters.

The nursing station also lacks a room of its own or adequate privacy and the kitchen is almost too small to cook lunch daily for the 40 seniors in attendance, Gorman added.

Seniors at the session requested craft areas, staging for performances, an industrial-sized kitchen, a computer room, exercise area and patio for outdoor entertainment.

"Right now we don't have much to choose from [for activities] in the city of Westfield," Matthew Roman, a regular attendee of the current senior center, said.

City Engineer Mark Cressotti, member of the building committee, requested an energy-efficient building with emphasis on sustainable practices.

Concern was raised among those in attendance regarding the center's lack of a Friends group.

"For the most part, all towns provided money for the building [of a new center] and Friends groups raised money for furnishings," Gorman explained. She encouraged more seniors to get involved to form a group, which would have to establish a board of directors and file for non-profit status.

Frank Kennedy and Tim Singleton of Diversified Project Management, the firm charged with locating a site of a new center, said there are at least four possible locations for a new center. They're considering renovating existing properties or building an entirely new center, Kennedy said.

A location may be selected before the end of the calendar year, Gorman noted.

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