, Newburyport, MA

December 6, 2012

Senior/community center design under review

Escalating costs may affect some proposed amenities


---- — NEWBURYPORT — Though construction of the new senior/community center is still close to two years away, city officials are already considering ways to cut costs on the proposed 16,000-square-foot project planned for the site of the current Bresnahan School.

At risk of getting bowled over in the budget process: two bocci courts.

Members of an advisory group to help plan the $6.5 million center met last night, and were told that rising construction costs could limit amenities at the center, to be located off High Street.

Geordie Vining, senior project manager for the city, said that officials and advisors would be wise to plan for a 9-percent escalation adjustment.

He said that in coming months, municipal planners, with the help of residents, will have to decide whether they want quality floors, full insulation and perhaps a half-basement to house heavy equipment.

Vining said that as the team gets closer to the date of bidding the project — probably in spring 2014 — every item must be reviewed for value.

“We’d like to have plantings, walkways, bocci courts,” said Vining. “But there will be a time when we have to prioritize.”

Current plans envision two courts for bocci, “an Italian variety of lawn bowling played on a dirt court that is shorter and narrower than the rink of a bowling green.”

More than a dozen seniors attended yesterday’s session, and several remarked that they plan to be involved in fundraising efforts in coming months in an effort to enable the city to produce the best senior/community center it can.

Residents last spring voted to build a new multi-purpose center on the site of the current Bresnahan School building once a new school has been built to the south. The Bresnahan will be demolished.

The new center will include a 1,600-square-foot multipurpose function room that will be available to the general community as well as senior citizens.

In addition, the center will include 2,400 square feet of space for “a compatible social service agency tenant, which will help subsidize the annual operational costs of the facility, and/or provide readily available expansion space for the seniors.”

City officials say there are 3,100 people in Newburyport over the age of 65. Counting those over 60, the population is 4,000. The growth in the number of seniors will continue until 2050, municipal leaders say.

Spokesmen for the local seniors say they would like the center to include offices for people providing services such as tax help, food stamp and fuel assistance and areas for kitchen space, a dining room, a drop-in area and meeting rooms.

Also possible are activity rooms for exercise, painting, bingo, bridge, dancing and knitting.

Plans currently call for an outdoor patio and garden space, and parking for approximately 100 vehicles.

Vining and several other municipal officials meet regularly with seniors to discuss the building project and to be prepared to make adjustments as the city gets closer to the bidding and building process.