South Hadley town officials take first steps toward new Senior Center 

Staff Writer
Published: 7/10/2018 10:57:02 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — A committee tasked with overseeing construction of a new Senior Center will hold its first meeting Thursday.

The Senior Center Building Committee is made up of representatives from important constituencies in town and they will hold their positions for a two- to three-year period, from design phase into construction. The meeting will be open to the public at the Senior Center at 5 p.m.

Members of the committee include Richard Ness, Diane Mulvaney, Linda Young, Rick Pio, Ted Boulais, Carol Constant, Michael Siddall, Jefferey Cyr and Leslie Hennessey.

“We are excited to get going and we are ready for the challenge,” Hennessey, director of the Council on Aging, said. “My goal is to bring everyone together and fill them in on background and how we got to this point and go over any questions they might have for me.”

Voters at annual Town Meeting in May agreed to allocate $600,000 toward the site assessment, design and bid planning for the new Senior Center, and Town Administrator Michael Sullivan said those funds will be available on July 30. The start date for construction is still to be determined, but anticipated time for the demolition of the current center and construction of the new one is 14 months, according to Hennessey.

The new 18,500-square-foot Senior Center will be built where the current Senior Center is located at 45 Dayton St.

Select Board chairman Ira J. Brezinsky said the estimated cost of a new center is between $11 million and $12 million, and $9.8 million is the maximum amount the town can borrow without a tax override at Town Meeting.

Sullivan said the $600,000 will also be used toward preliminary site work, such as testing materials, testing soil and a land survey. The town will also hire EDM Eagles of Pittsfield, who conducted a feasibility study last year, to design the new Senior Center.

“They were fantastic and an excellent resource for the town,” Hennessey said. “They put us through an initial needs assessment for what the building needed, in terms of our programming now (at the center) and future programming … They have insight on the best practices for building a center that has the senior in mind.”

The new committee will have to get acquainted with the conceptual design and decide how involved their yet-to-be determined owner’s project manager, who helps make sure project deadlines are met, will be as part of the design process, according to Sullivan.

Hennessey said the committee has yet to receive instructions from the Select Board, in terms of its exact responsibilities and parameters, but she said she hopes they will get that at their first meeting.

At the June 19 Select Board meeting, town resident John Howard, a member of the Sustainability & Energy Commission, mentioned his hope for the Senior Center to be a net-zero energy building, meaning the total amount of energy used on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.

He presented a letter to the board and said it would save the town money in the long run, in addition to being good for the environment.

He said he has paid a lot of attention to Amherst’s bylaw passed earlier this year in regards to energy use, which applies to new municipal buildings in town. It states, with minor exceptions, that renewable energy must supply building’s energy needs annually.

That is something the Senior Center Building Committee will have to look into as the project develops, according to Sullivan.

“It’s not a bad idea, it’s just the town would have to make a decision if it could afford it,” he said. “Right now the town is looking at how much the building is going to cost to begin, then OK, overlay all practices to make a sustainable and energy efficient building. What does that do to the cost of design?” He said that question, and other issues that arise for the Senior Center Building Committee, will mostly be determined by how it affects the project’s bottom line.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at

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