Residents support Masonic building for new Senior Center site

  • Results of two surveys collected by the Senior Center Expansion Committee were revealed during a meeting Friday at the Masonic building. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 12/9/2019 1:01:34 AM

SHELBURNE FALLS — The residents of Ashfield, Buckland and Shelburne have made their voices heard: They overwhelmingly support the Masonic building as the site for their Senior Center.

Results of two surveys collected by the Senior Center Expansion Committee throughout November were revealed during a committee meeting Friday, with the Masonic building — where the Senior Center is also currently located — being the clear front-runner from the six possible sites.

“This is what we’ve needed, having the public respond like this,” Senior Center Expansion Committee Chair Sylvia Smith said.

A short survey had residents rank the potential sites, with four primary locations and two alternate possibilities. A longer survey allowed residents to rank aspects, like parking access and location, of the six sites.

“We compiled a review of the six sites and input from various surveys taking into account peoples opinions about the sites, both positive and negative,” said George Dole of Jones Whitsett Architects, the firm hired to design plans for the six sites.

The Masonic building received the most support in the total 145 surveys submitted. During the first public forum on Nov. 6, 91 percent of 47 residents surveyed approved the Masonic building as their first or second choice. On Nov. 12, 94 percent of the 17 residents surveyed approved it as their first or second choice. Again, on Nov. 18, 78 percent of 27 people surveyed approved the building and 85 percent said it was their first or second choice. Lastly, out of 54 surveys mailed in, 80 percent approved it as their first or second choice.

“I’m amazed with how consistent it is,” said committee member Donna Liebl. “This shows it was a good process.”

The Buckland Police Station on Conway Street was the second most popular choice, Dole said. Other potential sites included the Mole Hollow Candle building on Deerfield Avenue; a Shelburne-owned lot near Arms Academy at the corner of Church, Maple and Severance streets; the Cowell Gym and Highland Village properties on Highland Avenue; and the Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School and the King/Bishop properties on Mechanic Street.

Residents cited pros associated with the Masonic building, include its location in the business district of Shelburne and parking access. Cons included wondering where Senior Center programs would be held if the building undergoes renovation.

Smith said that if the building were to be officially chosen and renovated, programming would not stop, but it may need to be held in a different location temporarily. This will require further discussion with both residents and the building owner, she said. Residents will vote during Town Meeting for an official decision, but the information from the survey helps identify a favored site.

Additionally, the Senior Center Expansion Committee approved payments of approximately $3,180 and $2,187 to Jones Whitsett Architects for its work conducting the forums, surveys and design plans. It approved $7,000 for the company’s work through December.

Shelburne Selectboard member Andrew Baker said the budgeting process for the town’s 10-year capital plan is beginning. He said the Senior Center will be a big factor that the Selectboard will need to consider as part of the plan.

Project coordinator recommended

Also during the Friday meeting, members of the Senior Center Expansion Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the Shelburne Selectboard appoint P-Three Inc., of Norwell, as a consulting firm and P-Three President Daniel Pallotta, who attended the meeting, will be leading the work with the expansion committee.

Senior Center Expansion Committee member Penny Spearance said she was impressed with the work the company had done for senior centers in municipalities like Greenfield and Ludlow. She also said the company has answered the committee’s questions adequately thus far.

“We’re ready to move on this and recommend them for Selectboard approval,” Spearance said.

This would involve a six-month consulting contract. Members of the Senior Center Expansion Committee and said the agreement would not exceed more than $45,000.

The Selectboard will discuss the recommendation and potentially vote on the matter during its meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.

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