NEWBURYPORT — City officials and about two dozen residents last night began some “advance planning” on the senior/community center that voters approved in June.
Construction on the $6.5 million project cannot start for several years because a new Bresnahan School must first be built, then the old Bresnahan must be demolished before ground can be broken on the new facility.
But numerous senior citizens at the meeting had been lobbying for such a center for years, and those attending seemed primed to serve on volunteer committees to help create the multi-purpose building.
Mayor Donna Holaday, who hosted the gathering, broke the group up into sectors that would focus on different aspects of the center: programs and services, planning the facility itself and fundraising to provide for amenities.
Holaday said that the recent referendum will provide the full $6.5 million cost, but fundraisers would provide money to permit a high level of extras, such as providing for tile floors instead of vinyl.
A fundraising campaign was also said to be a way to keep down taxes over the construction life of the project.
No financial goal was set, but Holaday indicated that the planning groups would meet the first Wednesday of the month at 5 p.m. in City Hall, and volunteers will continue to consider options.
About a half-dozen residents who were part of the fundraising subcommittee appeared to favor the concept of a golf tournament.
It was said that such a benefit for Anna Jaques Hospital, run by former Mayor Byron Matthews, had generated close to $150,000.
With that reconnaissance on the table, the fund-raising team informally decided to plan a golf tournament for next spring.
Other fundraising ideas included the following: a citywide yard sale, a taste of the city dinner tour, a cook-off competition, a holiday craft fair and a fishing derby.
Other suggestions included buying a brick with an inscription, selling “naming rights” to a given room in the center, hosting a grand ball and approaching the foundations of local businesses to ask for money.
City officials suggested that as the meetings continue, a buzz around the proposed center will be created and more residents will come out to volunteer their time and skills.