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Plans for Senior Center are unveiled last Wednesday

By Erin O'Connor

Staff Writer

AGAWAM Mayor Richard A. Cohen, accompanied by members of the Senior Center Building Advisory Committee unveiled designs for the new Senior Center on Oct. 11.

"It is a goal that by 2008 we are in this building. It has been a part of our capital improvement for the last eight years," Cohen said.

"It will be a 24,000 square feet facility with a historic colonial feel," Cohen added.

"There were three steps to the purchase of this property," Richard Theroux, chair of the new senior center committee, said to Reminder Publications.

Theroux said steps included the formation of the committee; putting out bids to associated firms; and then hiring Rhineharts and Associates to do preliminary design work.

Theroux said the Committee also includes City Council member George Bitzas and Senior Center members Pauline Paquette, Jane Schmidt, Emile Cote and Kathy Cote.

"Opinions were solicited from members of the Friends of Agawam Senior Center, staff of the Center, and a survey that was conducted," Theroux said.

"The new Center will include pool tables that were requested in the survey," Cohen said.

The City Council recently passed a resolution accepting $100,000 through a legislative earmark for the architectural design of the Center that will in total cost $300,000.

The remaining $200,000 is currently being sought through donations and grants.

"In applying for federal and state grants Congressman [Richard E.] Neal has been very supportive," Theroux said.

"A community is judged by how it treats its young and how it treats its old," Theroux said.

Cohen said that the city will not be getting rid of the current Center but they are negotiating to see what to do with it.

"I am very proud of Paula, Jane, Bitzas and [City Council member Robert A.] Magovern and the numerous hours they put in," Cohen said."This project was started five years ago when a survey was done and the land was purchased in 2001."

"I budgeted money for the land and went after [State Senator] Buoniconti and former Representative [Daniel] Keenan for the $100,000 earmarked to do the financial design," Cohen said.

"It will be one of the best senior centers in the state and country. We already have the best cooks, director, and the seniors, you," Bitzas said. "This is a dream that can come true."

Bitzas said he plans on displaying plans for the new Center in the current Center's halls.

"Seniors are above the 70's, 80's, and 90's. We live longer and we will have a lot of activities here to enjoy your life. It will be called an Adult Community Complex," Bitzas said.

"This is an area that is near and dear to my heart. Years ago, Andy Gallard and my dad went about in the construction of this building," Magovern said.

"Andy Gallard deserves the portrait he has over there. By the time the Center is completed I will probably be here," Magovern added.

Paquette said she would like to thank all of the people who have participated in the Friends fundraisers

Members of the Center Committee are hoping to approach companies such as Six Flags and Big E in gaining additional funding needed for the Center.