NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 9, 2012

A new plan for Port seniors

City to pursue building community center from scratch

NEWBURYPORT — The city has abandoned plans to convert the Bresnahan Elementary School into a community and senior center, and will instead be asking voters this spring to approve funding for constructing a new center on the site.

Mayor Donna Holaday had been pursuing a plan that would have seen the current Bresnahan School turned into a community center if voters approve building a new elementary school.

That plan called for demolishing part of the Bresnahan, and reducing it from about 50,000 square feet to about 24,000 square feet.

But upon further examination, the mayor has determined such a conversion is not feasible.

"As we looked at all that had to be done, the cost estimates kept going up," Holaday said last week. "So we are moving forward with a plan for a new center."

The cost of building a new facility is estimated to be about $6.3 million. The conversion was initially estimated at about $3.7 million, but rising costs would have put the project at $7 million to $8 million, according to city officials.

Municipal leaders say that the new senior-community center can't be built without voters also approving the new Bresnahan School project.

On June 5, voters will decide on the new Bresnahan School, the senior-community center as well as renovations to the Nock-Molin complex.

If approved, students will remain in the existing Bresnahan School until construction of the new school building on adjacent land is complete by 2014, which would then allow the center to be built.

"I am pleased with the plans for the proposed senior center," said City Councilor Ed Cameron, who has been a member of a municipal committee charged with studying the senior and community center issue. He is also chairman of the city's Budget and Finance Committee.

"We did due diligence on the idea to convert the Bresnahan, but found it was too expensive," he said. "Our city needs one center so that it can provide a decent level of services to our elderly."

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