LETTER: Resident Says Seniors Are Being Used As Pawns If New Town Hall & Senior Center Projects Become Linked, Sounds Off On Delay Over Site Selection

Dear Editor,

About a month ago, I wrote that the site selection for the Senior Center and Town Hall/ School Administration building had been chosen, unanimously, at a joint meeting of the Senior Center Building Committee and the Town Hall/School Administration Building Committee, which included two members of the Board of Selectmen (09/15/21). Despite that vote, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) has delayed telling the architects to begin their design process because of various reasons, most of which centered on not having enough information.

This,

  • Despite a 2 year lapse since we made a presentation to the BOS (on 12/16/19) identifying the reasons why a new Senior Center was needed;
  • Despite a promise from the BOS that the Senior Center would go before the Town Hall;
  • Despite the fact that in that time in which we visited 5 Senior Centers in other towns to get an opinion of advantages and disadvantages of various buildings and an idea of plans;
  • Despite the fact that a dedicated group of Senior volunteers spent at least 40 man-hours poring over the recommended programmatic needs and square footage of a new building;
  • Despite a survey completed by the Seniors on their vision for a new center in 10/21;
  • Despite a near unanimous vote at the 2020 Annual Town Meeting to approve a Feasibility Study for the new Senior Center;
  • Despite a walking tour of the site adjacent to St. Dorothy’s which occurred on 11/29/21, to which the general public was invited;
  • Despite two thorough presentations from the Architects, the second of which, held on 11/30/21, where the Senior Center Building Committee voted 5-2 vote in favor of the St. Dorothy’s site for the Senior Center and which was supported by the 40 plus seniors in attendance at that meeting;

No decision is forthcoming from the BOS!

The discussion has now devolved into who gets the St. Dorothy’s site – Town Hall/School Administration building or the Senior Center.  It is proposed by members of the BOS that the Seniors can have the present Town Hall site.  However we must wait for the old Town Hall to be torn down (an estimated 2-3 additional years) for the new Senior Center, increasing construction costs. Even if the Senior Center is built on that site while the Town Hall is still in use, there is no guarantee it would receive an occupancy permit. The demolition of the old Town Hall will also raise the project costs.

Many of us who have fervently espoused the new Senior Center will not be alive if that total time of construction is 4-5 years.

Are we frustrated at being pawns? You betcha!

And now we hear that the Town Manager wants to link the 2 projects into one Warrant Article at a Town Meeting in the fall. In other words, the BOS believes that the Town Hall project cannot stand on its own merits!

When the Seniors voted at past Town Meetings, they have supported the building of the Middle School, the High School and the Public Safety Building. We understand the current School Admin building (the Roman House) is deficient (non-ADA compliant). We understand the Town Hall is full and some workers must maintain offices off-site.  Yet, the BOS doesn’t trust that the Seniors will vote for the new Town Hall/School Admin building, unless they hold the new Senior Center project hostage.

It is up to the BOS to do their job and convince the taxpayers that a new Town Hall is needed. Let each proposed building stand on its own merits.

Let’s go back to the unanimous vote of 9/15/21 and the subsequent vote of 11/30/21, and put the Senior Center at St. Dorothy’s.  Build the Town Hall/School Administration building at the Swain site (our Town Center) and keep them as two separate Warrant Articles.

Now it is our turn. If you have an opinion, please voice it!  The BOS can be reached via email at selectmen@wilmingtonma.gov

Respectfully Submitted,

Susanne Clarkin

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