AMESBURY — With their new center under construction, the Friends of the Council on Aging are launching a campaign to raise $250,000 to equip the center.

The Friends of the Council on Aging, a nonprofit organization, has tapped former-Mayor David Hildt to be chairman of their campaign to purchase furnishings and decorate the interior. The center will be in the Senator Nicholas J. Costello Transportation Center on Elm Street.

"We are very excited to have Mayor Hildt's active involvement and leadership of our efforts," Betty Dion, president of the Friends of Amesbury's Council On Aging, said in a released statement. "While serving as mayor, David worked tirelessly on our behalf to obtain both political and financial support for our new Senior Center. We are grateful that he is now willing to continue his support by leading our fundraising campaign."

Hildt said it will be a two-part process.

Phase one, known as "Name That Room," will focus on grants from businesses and corporations, with larger donors being offered permanent naming rights to the most popular rooms. Phase two will be a public appeal for cash gifts and pledges. For those who are unable to pledge, Hildt pointed to many other avenues of aid.

"Donations of time and services to help the COA settle in to the new Senior Center will also be most welcome," Hildt said.

With so many entities being looked at and so much work to be done, the project is slated to take about 18 months from the ground-breaking, which occurred in August, to complete. In the meantime, town officials are doing all that they can to ensure that affairs are in order and the opening runs smoothly.

Mayor Thatcher Kezer said yesterday that construction of the building is on track and moving right along.

"I'm really pleased with the direction everything is heading. Right now, they're driving in the pylons and getting everything prepped, so they can begin construction on the building in the spring," Kezer said of Castagna Construction, the Newburyport-based company chosen for the job.

When the $8.6 million, 10,000-square-foot Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority center, named for Amesbury's first mayor, is completed, it will serve as a bus depot with space for the Senior Center, Recreation Department and Veterans Services department.

The project is being funded with $7 million in federal and state funds, with Amesbury supplying $1.5 million to outfit the offices and complete outdoor landscaping and a connection to the nearby Riverwalk bike path.

"Originally, residents were concerned about seniors having to travel farther to the Senior Center and whether or not it would be easily accessible to them — this connection will address that," he said.

The offices will be leased from the MVRTA, the building's owner.

"We've signed a 25-year lease and will be responsible for the maintenance, cleaning and plowing of our leased space," Kezer said.

The center will be in the Lower Millyard, an area of town once recognized for its thriving industry in Amesbury's carriage-making and auto body-building days that was all but decimated during the Depression.

The water mains of Elm Street have been replaced, and the road, which has been on the town's list of much-needed repairs for quite some time, has been given a fresh coating of pavement in preparation for the work.

Parking for the Costello Transportation Center, an escalating issue already in a town with growing commerce and shrinking parking options, will be one part of a larger-scale plan to enhance the Lower Millyard's potential. Kezer said it's crucial to Amesbury's ability to bring more businesses, and thus more revenue, to town. If all goes to plan and the Department of Public Works building is pulled out of its current Lower Millyard location, the parking garage can then be expanded to accommodate the needs of the center.

"It all goes back to economic development in the Lower Millyard to create revenue. These are the steps that we have to take to make that happen," Kezer said.

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