Selectmen Opt Not To Create Committee To Explore A New Senior Center, Want To Hear From Elderly Services Commission

WILMINGTON, MA — At last week’s Selectmen’s Meeting, board members declined to support a motion made by Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony to establish a committee to explore a new senior center.

O’Mahony stated that while the Selectmen have publicly supported a public safety substation in North Wilmington, the School Committee is advocating for the Wildwood Early Childhood Center, and the Selectmen created a committee to explore options for an ice rink in town, the town’s other big priority — to build a new Senior Center — doesn’t seem to be “represented at the same level” compared to the other projects.

“I want to formulate a committee so we can sit down and talk about what are the seniors needs, what would a senior center look like, and could it also serve as a community center [for families at night and on the weekends],” said O’Mahony. “I want to sit down at the table on a regular basis, like we’re doing for other facilities in town, and say what are your needs, your wants, and what’s actually available to us…. I understand we have limited resources and limited time, but I think we can stretch it a little bit more and have one more meeting in a month so the seniors don’t feel we’re ignoring the need for a new Senior Center at this point.”

Town Manager Jeff Hull shared some of his reservations about creating such a committee.

“By setting up a committee specifically for a new senior center, we could go down the road of having other groups say we should set up committees for [other building projects],” cautioned Hull. “We’re on a slippery slope of getting into a somewhat chaotic situation where we have multiple committees that ultimately have to be staffed by town personnel, or certainly attended by town personnel to provide information.”

Hull pointed out that the town already has a Permanent Building Committee, which looks at the different town buildings in need of replacement or rehab. He also encouraged seniors to attend the upcoming Facilities Master Plan presentation and discussion on Monday, October 28, 2019 at 7pm at Town Hall. He noted that will be the first of many opportunities for seniors — and residents of all ages — to “make their case” for their respective building priorities.

Selectman Jonathan Eaton was also hesitant to support the creation of a new committee, but would rather hear from the Wilmington Elderly Services Commission on the matter.

“The Commission is the folks in town, along with Elderly Services Director Terri Marciello, who have the best grip and handle on what the needs and limitations of the current Senior Center are,” remarked Eaton. “They’ve been appointed and have been serving for some time to make recommendations about what goes on at the Senior Center…. These are the folks I’d like to hear from, and before the end of 2019.”

Eaton later asked Chairman Greg Bendel to invite the Elderly Services Commission Meeting in to one of the board’s final three meetings of the year. Bendel agreed.

“My concern is we’d be asking the Elderly Services Commission to formulate a plan for a new senior center, which I believe is outside their scope,” O’Mahony later responded. “How are they going to develop a [building plan]? We’re asking them to do more than what’s in their scope.”

Selectman Mike McCoy did not like O’Mahony’s idea to consider the Senior Center also serve as a “Community Center. ”

“I think we should focus on one thing — a senior center. Period,” added McCoy, who noted he’s a senior and still goes out at night. “I don’t think we should be muddying anything up. Let’s keep our eye on the ball and keep it just a Senior Center.

Selectman Kevin Caira agreed with his colleagues.

“I think the Elderly Services Commission is the deal committee to address this issue… The Facility Master Plan also addresses this issue… Let’s go through the process. I don’t think another committee is needed at this time,” said Selectman Caira. “And I agree with Mr. McCoy. This should just be a Senior Center, not a Community Center.”

Caira also noted that the town is not ignoring the Senior Center. The Public Buildings Department ($10,000) and the state ($30,000) recently invested funds into renovations at the Senior Center.

Selectman Chair Greg Bendel encouraged residents to attend the Facilities Master Plan discussion on Monday, October 28 at 7pm at Town Hall. He said he’s holding off on his opinion on town projects until hearing the presentation.

“The meeting will provide a good opportunity to hear the Facility Master Plan’s findings, be presented with facts, let all the elected and appointed residents have input, and – of course – receive feedback from the public. This will be the first of many conversations,” said Bendel.

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