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Gill-Montague Senior Center gets money to study sites for new home

TURNERS FALLS — The Gill-Montague Senior Center took another step this week toward a rebirth, with the award of a $60,000 contract for a preliminary study of three possible rebuild or renovation options.

Catlin + Petrovick Architects of New Hampshire will undertake the investigation, funded by a state Community Development Block Grant. The Montague Board of Selectmen approved the contract award Monday.

Town Planner Walter Ramsey said the architects will look into three sites: the existing Gill-Montague Senior Center at 62 Fifth St.; the town-owned former St. Anne’s rectory building at 25 Sixth St.; and land behind the Town Hall, 1 Avenue A.

“We have really outgrown the space we are in ... we have one room only, which really hampers the number and the size of the activities that we can really do there,” said senior center Director Roberta Potter. The space is small, the parking is on-street, limited and represents a bit of a climb over the raised tree belt to the building. Parking and space are the main issues, she said.

In addition, the heating and air conditioning systems are antiquated and difficult to regulate between the extremes of hot and cold, there is only one bathroom, only one entrance is handicapped accessible and the kitchen is awkwardly located in the basement.

The center serves about 420 people a year from Montague and its much smaller neighbor, about 20 percent of the combined senior population, and Potter said use of all such centers is expected to grow dramatically and soon as the baby boomer generation ages.

The center offers aerobics and exercise classes, serves lunch three days a week through the Meals on Wheels program, hosts a knitting circle, bingo and card games, a monthly coffee and conversation program and is a distribution location for the Food Bank of Western Mass. brown bag grocery program for low-income seniors.

The building also serves as a place to stop in, and where staff help connect people with resources, all out of a former church and former athletic club built in 1890, according to assessor’s records.

The feasibility study is a first step which, if cleared, could lead to applications for design and building grants, with a minimum three-year time line. The results of the first study are expected later this year.

“I think we’re all really eager to see what the consultants come up with,” Potter said.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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