Senior Center Expansion Committee discusses timeline leading up to vote on senior services district

  • The Senior Center located in the Masonic Building in Shelburne Falls serves residents of Shelburne, Buckland and Ashfield. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/25/2020 8:34:51 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — Members of the Senior Center Expansion Committee met earlier this week to discuss a timeline for goals to keep its planning process moving, with the intention of having residents vote on establishing a West County Senior Services District in the spring.

A West County Senior Services District would allow the three member towns — Ashfield, Buckland and Shelburne — to have equal say in decisions with respect to the Senior Center in Shelburne Falls and its future expansion. The Senior Center is currently located in the Masonic building on Main Street.

Senior Center Expansion Committee Chair Sylvia Smith said members want to keep the project moving forward and bring a West County Senior Services District warrant article to respective Annual Town Meetings this coming spring. To meet that deadline, the committee assembled a timeline with dates, “so we don’t become jammed at the 11th hour,” Smith said. The timeline was presented to a working group consisting of Selectboard representatives from each of the towns.

“We’re looking at the working group being a nucleus to help guide the input and any modifications to the district agreement that has been approved by the Expansion Committee and sent to the towns,” Smith said.

A draft agreement was sent to member towns in September, outlining the establishment of a six-person board of managers, with two members from each town. All members would be appointed by the respective town’s Selectboard. Eventually, a final draft of the agreement will be brought back to the Senior Center Expansion Committee for another vote.

Expansion Committee member Paula Consolo expressed concern over the tight projected timeline, and said she wants to see another time allotted for input from Expansion Committee members. Members agreed, and Senior Center Foundation President and Shelburne Selectboard member Margaret Payne suggested the group reconvene for further review of a re-drafted document in January.

Daniel Pallotta, president of P-Three Technologies Inc., who the committee hired in 2019 as a project consultant, said the working group was formed to help streamline the planning process. The timeline, as presented Tuesday, would see the working group seeking input from the three town selectboards and public comment periods throughout the winter and early spring.

“I’m concerned about the tight timeline, too,” Pallotta agreed. “But I think we still have plenty of time and I do think this can get done, as long as the three towns have the will to get it done. And that’s a very important piece — the three towns have to have the will to get it through.”

Pallotta said he made the timeline as an outline to prove the goals could be met.

“I expect things to get jumbled around, but the bottom line is warrants close and Town Meetings vote,” he said. “Those dates are static.”

Pallotta said the plan is to collect feedback from each of the three towns, to identify the basic concepts they agree on, or don’t, within six weeks.

For a West County Senior Services District to be created, the district agreement — which was reviewed in its draft form at an Aug. 26 joint meeting of the Senior Center Expansion Committee and the Senior Center’s board of directors — must be approved by a Town Meeting vote in all three towns. According to the presented timeline, Annual Town Meetings are expected to be held in early April, and an article will be due for submission to be put on the warrants prior to then. The warrant item that residents will vote on must be identical for all three towns.

Expansion Committee members and Pallotta acknowledged the need for sufficient time for public input ahead of submitting a final warrant article. Public comment periods are expected to be held in February and March, according to the timeline presented Tuesday. Pallotta noted that while he would prefer an in-person meeting with residents, the lasting pandemic may necessitate a virtual public forum.

“It all depends on what’s happening at the time,” he said. “If we’re still Zooming, then we’re Zooming. We might not be able to do it in person.”

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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