In need of renovations, South County Senior Center’s future unclear

  • The South County Senior Center on North Main Street in South Deerfield is in need of renovations and an environmental assessment. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The South County Senior Center on North Main Street in South Deerfield is in need of renovations and an environmental assessment. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2021 10:20:36 AM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — The South County Senior Center’s future is hazy as it awaits an environmental assessment and funding for renovations.

Deerfield Select Board member and Senior Center Board of Oversight member Trevor McDaniel said the environmental assessment could be done quickly, but the real issue is funding.

“We’re looking for leftover money in our accounts,” McDaniel said. “We’ve been thinking about this for years and we need the right mix of things to get this right.”

The Senior Center, on North Main Street in South Deerfield, has been closed due to the pandemic since last year. The second floor is not fully accessible as there is no elevator or chairlift, and the basement is blocked off because of mold. If the environmental assessment passes, McDaniel said funding will go toward repairs and renovations.

“If we put in an elevator and redo everything, we can save it,” McDaniel said of the building. “We’ve limped it along as long as we could.”

McDaniel said there are two other options on the table. One would be finding another building in either Deerfield, Whately, or Sunderland to host the Senior Center. The other would be building a library with the Senior Center attached to it.

Deerfield is eligible to apply for a $4 million grant for a new library. McDaniel said the issue, however, with attaching the Senior Center to the library is all of the money for the Senior Center portion would have to come from the town’s budget because the grant money can be only used on library expenses.

McDaniel said the Senior Center and housing are among the town’s top priorities, but there are a lot of essential projects that need the money first, such as sewer replacements around town.

“There’s a lot of projects pending,” McDaniel said, adding that a project like the sewer, “it’s not fun but it’s vital.”

McDaniel said there is no date set for the environmental assessment, but it should be sooner rather than later. He also urged public participation at meetings so residents’ input can be heard and incorporated into the Senior Center’s plans.

Sunderland Select Board Chair and Senior Center Board of Oversight member Tom Fydenkevez said there is a “level of frustration” for the seniors as they await plans.

“I think I can speak for all of us and say we all think our seniors deserve much better than they have,” Fydenkevez said. “I hope we’re able to move that forward.”

South County Senior Center Director Christina Johnson declined to comment on the record.

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