Town to Apply for Grant for Senior Center Upgrades
The grant would allow an inter-municipal agreement for the Chelmsford Housing Authority to operate the Senior Center, and make some much-needed upgrades to the building.
David Hedison of the Chelmsford Housing Authority Monday night presented a proposal for a $500,000 state Community Innovation Challenge grant for a partnership between the housing authority and the Senior Center.
The proposal comes as Senior Center Director Diana Ryder has indicated she will be retiring soon, and Hedison and Town Manager Paul Cohen sought to look for ways to increase services to seniors and efficiencies as to how the department is run.
If the town receives the grant, the Chelmsford Housing Authority would enter into an inter-municipal agreement with the town to operate the Senior Center.
"At the Housing Authority, we don’t think of just bricks and morter, we think of services and people who reside in that housing," he said "We need a senior center to (cater to) youthful and older seniors."
Hedison said the grant would allow the Senior Center to expand its hours from 2:30 p.m. during the week to 5:30 p.m., if not later, and reorganize spaces to better suit the seniors. Hedison said the building's HVAC and roof also need attention.
"The space could be reworked to serve younger, middle, and older seniors, and lease some space to private third-party that add to services," Hedison said. "(the seniors) want to have a fitness center, I want to see a fitness center and I am committing to that and it will be a valuable fitness center."
Hedison also shared his vision of a wifi coffee house concept inside the building.
"We'd have have a third-party vendor for coffee, and we'd be looking at expanded meals program," he said. Hedison said maybe a senior who lives with her son could instead opt to eat at the Senior Center on a Friday night instead of going to a restaurant.
Hedison said he would also like to see a partnership between Lowell General/Saints Memorial to locate a medical office within the senior center, along with a lab.
"The Senior Center already has an adult day program and a health center at North Village, and we’d like to bring them together to create a wellness program to help seniors remain in community for support."
Hedison said renting space in the senior center could generate about $50,000 for year and add to services for the seniors.
"Chelmsford Housing Authority would be managing the senior center," he said.
Cohen said if the town were to receive the grant, the town's operation of the Senior Center would end on June 30 and the Housing Authority would start on July 1, to match up with the fiscal year.
"They would interview and evaluate to retain the staff and hire a director for the day-to-day operation," Cohen said. Cohen said there would still be a Council on Aging to oversee the services, and only the administrative model would change.
"It's an administrative model ... (to) keep the dymnaic within town and more cost effective for all involved," he said. "There are good opportunities for synergy and a model for other communities to emulate in the future."
Selectmen Chairman George Dixon said he supported the idea.
"To me, it's a win win for everbody," he said. "The town saves money ... and everyone would be on the same team."
Hedison said the intermunicipal agreement would include a 30-, 60- or 90-day clause to allow the town to opt out.
"If we're not doing our job, we can go back to the way it was," he said.
Cohen said the use of the Senior Center for an emergency center or "warming stations" in the event of a storm or power loss would not change.
"I think our seniors will benefit from this," said Selectman Jim Lane. "My hats off to you."
Selectmen voted to support the grant application.