SHIRLEY — After languishing for years, the Council on Aging (COA) has a new lease on life, a full board, an optimistic outlook and ambitious plans for the future.
When the COA met April 5, members discussed the agenda for a get-together the group’s hosting Wednesday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the War Memorial Building.
Present were Chairman Harold Smith; members Frank Esielionis, Ann Towne, Marcia Sullivan, Nancy Zaleski and new recruit Ray Gagnon; Jean Bowden, the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART) van dispatcher and driver; and Martha Campbell, director of the Groton Senior Center.
A number of Shirley seniors visit the Groton center, said Campbell. In addition to tapping her experience, the group can use Groton’s successful program as a model as it maps out plans to establish a senior center in town.
The plans for the senior center include groundwork so far. A recent tour of possible sites, for example, ruled out a room at the library. Although the room was reputedly set aside for the purpose when the new building was constructed, the group agreed it’s since segued to other uses and won’t work as a senior center.
The Center School, on the other hand, might work out fine. In its favor are a central location in the town’s historic district, ample parking and handicapped access.
The old building has been kept up, too, with several major upgrades and repairs in recent years. It was used to house a couple of preschool and kindergarten classes until this year, when it was mothballed to save money.
The School Department has jurisdiction, so the superintendent would have to OK its alternative use. If it makes the final cut, the COA said it may host a tour of the building that can be filmed for the cable access TV channel.
Another option is to build new on a site behind the police station.
That would take money, but as Frank Esielionis noted at a previous Board of Selectmen’s meeting, there’s $250,000 in MCI funds earmarked to build a senior center.
Selectmen Chairman Leonardo “Chip” Guercio said the money’s still there.
But that could change as the board keeps “dipping into” that account to pay town bills, said Selectman Enrico Cappucci.
A more pressing need is to hire a COA director, the first item to be addressed at the April 16 event. The $40,000 price tag covers a full-time salary plus benefits.
That brought up a quandary: Which should come first, the position or a center?
COA members had favored the latter, but Guercio steered them toward the former, said Towne. The director would have a desk at the Town Offices until a permanent headquarters could be set up, she said.
Board members stressed that the green light for both initiatives must come from the town’s seniors. That’s why they’re into outreach and coop efforts. Part of that is forging friendly links with the Golden Age organization, they said. COA members were encouraged to join the other group as a first step in that direction.
Next comes the April 16 event. Refreshments will be served. Transportation, if needed, will be provided.
Call Jean Bowden at (978) 425-2600, ext. 285, to reserve a seat.