New senior center on backburner in Washington
Published 10:08 pm, Thursday, June 11, 2015
The need for a new senior center in Washington is well known.
Yet, for various reasons, such a facility has had to take a back seat in recent years. Fires and explosions have detoured funds that otherwise might have been earmarked for a new and improved senior center.
The administration of First Selectman Mark Lyon has had to fund replacement of the town garage and fleet after a fire burned the building and much of the equipment in 2012, and to fund repairs to Bryan Memorial Town Hall after a propane explosion that same year blew out windows and damaged the building.
That work was completed in December and April, respectively.
“It was a good four years ago when Fran DeSimone and Samantha Bedini approached me and asked for my help in getting a new senior center for the town,” said former selectman Nick Solley, who now serves on the town’s Building & Properties Committee.
“But we’ve had to put our energies on rebuilding the town garage, repairing the town hall and now we’re replacing two bridges on Walker Brook and Rumford Road,” Solley said. “The senior center has had to wait. But it has not been forgotten.”
DeSimone, 75, is frustrated.
She said, if she were younger, she’d run for office to get the town on track. There is, she said, not enough drive on the part of the present administration to push things through.
“They keep telling me they’re working behind the scenes to get things done,” DeSimone said. “But I’ll believe it when I see a new center in the town.”
The current senior center is located at 6 Bryan Plaza, in the Gage-Zumpf American Legion Hall.
Lyon, who will be up for re-election in November, said he hopes, in the next two to three years, money can be set aside in the town’s capital budget to fund feasibility studies on designing a center and purchasing a parcel where a center could be built.
“This has not been forgotten by the administration by any means,” Lyon said. “Fran has talked about applying for a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant, but we don’t have any solid plans in place to base an application on.”
The first selectman said, with no property to build on, even a feasibility study would be years away.
“The Buildings & Properties Committee has looked at what its members thought might be opportunities to secure some property,” Lyon said. “But they did not work out.”
Two, town-owned properties were targeted four years ago.
One, on School Street, is in the flood zone. The other parcel, on Titus Road, is a supply site for the town’s highway department and therefor unsuitable, Solley said.
“After an exhaustive inventory of our town-owned properties, we found there was nothing to do but purchase one and build,” Solley said. “We’re talking around $2 million if we go that route and Washington voters are not fond of bonding. Other priorities had to come first.”