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Permanent Building Committee sprints to bring alternative senior center proposal to October Town Meeting

In the spirit of the Summer Olympics, the Permanent Building Committee is running its own race this summer to bring a design and estimate for an alternative property that would serve as the town’s senior center to Fall Town Meeting. The race itself is more like a relay, involving handoffs from multiple boards, town officials, and a yet-to-be-named architect and property owner.

With the Town Meeting date of Oct. 16 looming,  PBC Chair Cindy Russo told the committee at its June 30 meeting that it would either have to do “a ton of work” this summer to have the design and estimate ready in time, or resign itself to waiting until spring, when buildings available now might be off the market. The committee chose to push forward. Russo said the schematic design doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as there are high-level drawings and an estimate ready a few days in advance of the October meeting.

The town currently has a request for proposals in the state’s central register for properties available for lease or purchase that could satisfy the Council on Aging’s needs for office space and a senior center. Assistant Town Administrator Marie Sobalvarro told the committee responses to that request are due back July 26. The Select Board will likely be in charge of choosing a building, with input from the Council on Aging and the Permanent Building Committee. The board would also have to choose whether to lease or purchase the building, if both of those options are available for the chosen property. Russo told the Press the Select Board may have to schedule an additional meeting this summer to make those decisions.

In the meantime, the town has also posted a request for quotes for an architect to do schematic design alternatives and a cost estimate for renovating the chosen building to meet the COA’s needs. Responses to that request are due back July 21, and the PBC is scheduled to meet the following day to determine which architects to interview. The committee hopes to schedule interviews for July 28, when responses to the building request will be available; the completion date for the architect’s work is Oct. 1.

By early August, the Permanent Building Committee hopes that a building will be chosen and a contract with an architect will be signed so that design work can begin. In addition, some sort of agreement with the owner of the chosen property would need to be crafted and signed so that the building would stay on the market until the town votes on its purchase or lease.

Should the Select Board decide buying is the better option, the purchase would likely be funded by excluded debt. That would require the town to vote on a ballot question, which means an election would have to be held in the fall to secure financing to buy the property. Town Clerk Marlene Kenney said the language of a ballot question has to be submitted 35 days in advance of an election, but it need not contain the amount to be borrowed.

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