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Ideas, Options Sought from Community for New Senior Center

City Council Finance Committee reviews old feasibility study for center, price tag for easterly treatment plant and approves affordable housing units

Question: When is a feasibility study not a feasibility study?

Answer: When it pertains to building a new senior center for city residents.

With a 9-year-old feasibility study in hand, asked the Finance Subcommittee of the City Council on Monday, May 2, to update the former document at a cost of $23,000 with the hope that a new would be built.

The mayor said a professional architectural firm would be necessary to evaluate potential city-owned sites and estimate construction costs for the project.

City Council President Arthur G. Vigeant, Ward 1 Councilor Joseph F. Delano Jr. and At-Large Councilor Patricia Pope disagreed that the city needs a formal updated feasibility study, but a plan to move forward -- which would eventually involve professionals.

No matter what they call it, everyone agreed that discussions and decisions must be made as to the scope of the new facility. What do seniors want inside the facility? Can the project be coupled with another need, such as a library or recreation center? What are the options with city-owned real estate?

Ward 2 Councilor Paul Ferro said he preferred to see a separate building that was solely a senior center that would serve a new generation of seniors who were born in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  

Finance Committee Chairman Michael Ossing said the issue of spending $23,000 at the moment is "premature," and asked that a citizens advisory committee be formed to figure out is needed and where it should be located.

"And we all should read the old feasibility study," he said, referring to City Councilors as well as John Ghiloni, director of public facilities.

He also said that any money spent on the project should come from existing budget accounts instead of stabilization or free cash.

The issue was tabled for the moment but will re-emerge soon because all want to move ahead as soon as possible with this project for seniors.

In other business, the Finance Subcommittee agreed to transfer $275,780 from the Stabilization Affordable Housing Account to the Marlborough Community Development Authority to build a single-family affordable home at 61 Emmett St. and rehab another property and make that a two-family affordable home at 16 Clinton St.

The Emmett Street project will be done in cooperation with Assabet Valley Technical High School whereby students will actually build the interior of the house as part of their school studies beginning in September, if all permits, demolition and site preparation is approved and completed on time.

Both projects are funded by state and federal grants and will not the cost city any money.

The Finance Subcommittee also listened to Commissioner of Public Works Ronald M. LaFreniere and representatives from consulting and engineering firms regarding the $3.7 million design phase cost for the easterly wastewater treatment plant. The entire project is tentatively scheduled to be completed by March 2014 at a total cost of $60 million.

As a result of this mandated project by the Environmental Protection Agency, Marlborough sewer users could see their rates nearly triple in three years.

According to Jane E. Madden, vice president of Camp Dresser & McKee Inc. of Cambridge, the consulting company for the project, residents will likely pay $850 to $1,200 per year for sewer use after the project is complete.

"Marlborough's rate now is on the low end (compared to other towns) and after the project is complete it will then be in the midrange," she said.

Unlike upgrades to the westerly treatment plant, Mayor Stevens said there will be little to no grant monies that would likely offset expenditures for this project.

There may be some "principal forgiveness," which may save the city some money since Marlborough has been designated as a green community and this project will use energy-efficient construction.

And this time, the EPA is restricting the discharge capacity to 0.1 percent, instead of 1.0 percent, because of new technology that will be required.

Councilor Ferro said this is the very definition of an unfunded mandate and the technology is so new it didn't exist three years ago.

Councilor Delano asked, "What happens if we don't meet that limit?"

LaFreniere said there would likely not be penalties because the city is under administrative review orders to proceed with the project.

Delano added that he wants to see that odor control be the No. 1 priority in the design phase.

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