PEPPERELL -- Members of the Council on Aging encouraged council members and seniors to move on from complaints about the senior center's leadership Monday, although some seniors still appeared displeased.
Since COA Director Marcia Zaniboni fired a well-liked kitchen supervisor in August, upset seniors have complained to the COA and selectmen about the firing and Zaniboni's leadership style.
Zaniboni said the COA is perceived by many in the community to be dysfunctional. She said the priority should be placed back on the 2,000 seniors that the center aims to serve.
"We're not moving forward as a board, we're not unified, the selectmen are really hesitant to appoint to the board because it is perceived by the whole town as being very dysfunctional, that you come in here and you fight," Zaniboni said. "We're not here to advocate for what we want for ourselves."
COA member Dianne Kazanjian urged the council and about 15 seniors at the meeting to work together to move past the complaints.
"It hurts me to see the way so many of you are hurt over what has happened," Kazanjian said. "I would hope that we could eventually get this past us and get moving and just be more accepting of each other and try to work together."
COA member Laurie Durno presented the idea of a suggestion box, where seniors could anonymously voice their opinions.
"We're all here for the same reason -- to keep this center going and to keep it good," Durno said.
Attendee Bill Daley, president of the Friends of Pepperell Seniors, refuted Zaniboni's statement earlier in the meeting that only three volunteers had left the senior center after the cook was fired.
Daley said the firing and Zaniboni's leadership style both led many more volunteers to leave.
"When it happens frequently there are bound to be repercussions, and that's what you're getting right now. I want to see it end. And if we can be sure that this stuff would cease, I think everybody would come back into the fold," Daley said.
Daley was cut off by the COA in the middle of his statement. When residents complained, he was allowed to speak again, but said he no longer wanted to talk.
Resident Tom Landry stood up to interject after Daley was cut off, saying he should be given the chance to finish speaking.
"If you lop off our legs, how the hell can we walk with you?" Landry asked.
Resident Phil Durno also spoke out in defense of Daley.
"What happened to Bill tonight is what one of the problems is here. The man asked to be recognized, but the minute he started to say something, you cut him right off," Durno said.
Selectmen are expected to appoint someone to fill a vacancy on the COA in December. Five applicants are being considered, and applications are being accepted until Thursday to allow account for an error in posting the opening on the town's website.
COA member Virginia Malouin asked the board to vote in support of Phil Durno, one of two original applicants before the deadline was extended, to fill the vacancy.
Because the application process is still open, Kazanjian said that making any recommendation was premature.
Malouin suggested that seniors with a strong preference submit their recommendations for candidates to the selectmen before they make their decision.
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