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Reaction mixed to proposed Greenfield Senior Center move

  • Dave McElligott and Real Bouchard, both of Greenfield, play pool at the Greenfield Senior Center on Wednesday afternoons. <br/>(Recorder/Paul Franz)

    Dave McElligott and Real Bouchard, both of Greenfield, play pool at the Greenfield Senior Center on Wednesday afternoons.
    (Recorder/Paul Franz) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Thomas Goodwin supports Mayor Martin's plans to move the senior center<br/>Photo by Kathleen McKiernan

    Thomas Goodwin supports Mayor Martin's plans to move the senior center
    Photo by Kathleen McKiernan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Esther White of Greenfield supports moving the senior center to the Mill House Apartment land<br/>Photo by Kathleen McKiernan

    Esther White of Greenfield supports moving the senior center to the Mill House Apartment land
    Photo by Kathleen McKiernan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Margaret Ohotnicky of Greenfield opposes the proposal to move the senior center.<br/>Photo by Kathleen McKiernan

    Margaret Ohotnicky of Greenfield opposes the proposal to move the senior center.
    Photo by Kathleen McKiernan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dave McElligott and Real Bouchard, both of Greenfield, play pool at the Greenfield Senior Center on Wednesday afternoons. <br/>(Recorder/Paul Franz)
  • Thomas Goodwin supports Mayor Martin's plans to move the senior center<br/>Photo by Kathleen McKiernan
  • Esther White of Greenfield supports moving the senior center to the Mill House Apartment land<br/>Photo by Kathleen McKiernan
  • Margaret Ohotnicky of Greenfield opposes the proposal to move the senior center.<br/>Photo by Kathleen McKiernan

GREENFIELD — While some seniors at the Greenfield Senior Center are looking forward to a time when leaky ceilings, poor ventilation and inadequate space are a distant memory, others are not so eager to leave the space on the ground floor of the Weldon House on High Street.

This week, Mayor William Martin announced that the town is negotiating with the owner of Mill House on Wells Street to lease under-utilized land across the street from the 103-apartment complex.

The town proposes to build a new senior and community center on the property, which is assessed by the town at $40,000.

The property is used for extra parking for the Mill House, which provides housing for seniors and those considered low-income.

The proposed relocation is long overdue, said Hope Macary, director of Greenfield Council on Aging.

“The Council on Aging has been talking about a new senior center since 1998,” Macary said. “Back then, we were planning for baby boomers. But they’re here now.”

The current 7,000-square-foot space on the bottom floor of the Weldon House is half the size of what is recommended for Greenfield, Macary said.

Problems with the existing facility include poor air quality and ventilation, leaks from air conditioners from the above apartments, and lack of space.

The current space offers little privacy. In the main room, seniors do yoga, tai chi and other activities, but there are no doors to provide privacy and anyone can mistakenly walk in on a session, Macary said.

This summer, the ladies’ bathroom had to be shut down temporarily due to water from air conditioners leaking on the floor, Macary said. There are two program rooms in the back of the building, but one room has only space for eight people and the second room can only hold 12 people, which limits what programs the center can offer, Macary added.

The space is also overcrowded. Last year, 1,500 different people used the facility and an average of 17,000 units of service or interactions between the three staff workers and seniors were provided.

The building is also expensive to occupy. While rent is $500 a month, the town pays $16,000 to $20,000 for electricity each year, Macary said.

On Tuesday, a day after the mayor made his plans public at a Town Council meeting, a dozen seniors offered their thoughts on the proposal during an intense afternoon game of bridge.

The reaction was mixed among many of the participants who have been attending activities and meeting friends at the Weldon House for years.

Thomas Goodwin, a board member on the Council on Aging, paused his game with two friends to commend the proposal.

“Being in this facility is not ideal for what you want — an activity center,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin cited inadequate space from the computer lab being in the middle of a hallway to different activities using the same open large meeting space, offering no privacy.

“Because you’re on the ground floor of a big hotel, there’s been several problems with water coming down through the ceiling and controlling the temperature,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin does not foresee a major problem in having people go a few more streets over to the proposed location.

He said the Franklin Regional Transit Authority is always available to pick up and drop off seniors.

Esther White of Greenfield, who has come to the senior center for 20 years, agreed.

“They’ve always needed room for exercise. It did need a lot of repairs,” White said. “I know a lot of people at the Mill House would come,” she added.

Margaret Ohotnicky of Greenfield was not too keen on the proposal.

“I’m not interested in that happening,” Ohotnicky said. “I live right here at Weldon. I’m happy with the space. I have been able to come here without having to go outdoors.”

The Greenfield Senior Center is anticipating growth, Macary said.

“Where do we go in the future? This senior center is really run by seniors for the seniors,” Macary said. “We’re here to guide them, but it’s up to the seniors what they want to do with the senior center.”

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268 on Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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