Residents Debate Senior Center in Ward Park
Residents raised concerns over the Ward Park location for the new Senior Center Wednesday night.
Over 30 residents passionately discussed a 13,000 square foot Senior Center at Ward Park Wednesday night.
“It sounds like this is a done deal as far as the politicians in this city go,” said Lou Papile who said the "dug out" that will be built over is the most highly used part of the park.
Many residents near the park raised their concerns that this was essentially a done deal and the only way that improvements would come to the park. Among other concerns were noise and decrease in property values.
Chief among the residents' concerns at the public hearing, organized by Ward Councilor Matt Elder, was a change in the nature of the park which had caused many residents to buy in the area in the first place.
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However, not all residents felt that the Senior Center would detract from the location.
Jennifer Dibuono who lives nearby said she has seen the park go downhill in recent years. There is lots of activity in that park that goes on at night, she said.
“There’s a lot of punks down there and they do drugs and a bunch of stuff," said Dibuono. "If we put [The Senior Center] there and put the effort into the park, it will keep some of these punks, excuse me kids, away from there.”
The Senior Center being in the park would add the benefit of allowing seniors to interact with all the other people in the park. They would be able to play with the children at the park, said Dibuono.
"Why can't the seniors walk with us?" she said.
Many of the residents were concerned with flooding. The area is always wet, said residents who questioned the drainage of the area.
Public Works Commissioner Ronald LaFreniere said this was a known issue with the area. Moving forward, the entire field would be raised up to get it above the groundwater level which it is very close to now. The entire project would also yield more usable field space, said LaFreniere.
“Building a field today is not what it was in the past," he said. “This is a location in the community that has been neglected for a number of years.
Towards the end of the discussion, Mayor Arthur Vigeant said there would be issues with any property the city looks at for placing a Senior Center. This is the site that has gained traction within the city and the one that is being examined now, he said.
“I’m hoping that as we go through this process we can get everyone on board," said the mayor.
City Council President Patricia Pope said there seemed to be agreement in the community that a new Senior Center was needed and that any issues with a particular location could be worked out.
“We have to have an open mind and we have to try and work together," said Pope. "The park is still going to be there. That is what we are losing sight of.”