HAMPDEN — The second of two public forums on proposed renovations and expansion for the Senior Center took place on April 30 with an audience of community members and center regulars.

Council on Aging and Senior Center Director Rebecca Moriarty introduced the open forum which outlined the continued efforts of the Senior Center Building Committee, who are working with Farmington, Connecticut based architectural firm EDM Studio on design plans for the project.

Moriarity addressed the growing figures in U.S. population over age 65, noting that while more than 35% of Hampden’s current makeup are past age 60, the highest percentage of the center’s users are also age 60 and above.

As far as expenditures are concerned, Moriarty said costs from the center are a small portion of the overall town of Hampden budget.

“The Senior Center budget is just about 2% of the total town budget,” she said. “So, it’s a little slice of the very big pie.”

Outlining a busy schedule of services and activities that are offered during an average week at the Senior Center, Moriarty described the challenges in juggling time and space constraints with the buildings current size and layout.

Offering a litany of outreach and counseling programs such as fuel and food assistance, Moriarty pointed out that the center serves as the only social service agency within the town.

“We are helping people who are hungry or who may not have heat,” she said. “We’re helping people get to medical appointments and to the grocery store or the bank, we’re also setting people up with referrals for homecare services.”

She continued, “But those are programs that you don’t see listed on our calendar of events because those are things that people can call and make an appointment for.”

Acknowledging space limitations, Moriarty said the center is often forced to cancel classes if there are large events taking place while a custodial closet is regularly being utilized to provide health services such as foot care, massages and hearing tests while blood pressure screenings are held in the library.
The initial open forum, presented in March, offered a first look at expansion ideas as well as a comprehensive overview of current challenges faced at the 25-year-old Senior Center due to limited space and increasing demand.

Building Committee Chair Don Collins provided a look at what the hoped expansion would help provide and the limitations they seek to alleviate, including increases in private healthcare and meeting spaces, upgraded restrooms that meet accessibility needs and expanded space overall to prevent the cancellation of regular programming when large events are scheduled in the building. Priorities within the planning stages include the need for increased storage within the facility.

Collins also said the projected $6.65 million project would allow the Senior Center to move towards the future as needs and attendance increase for the town’s older population.

“The average house [in Hampden] is assessed at $377,000,” Collins said. In paying off the bonds that would potentially go towards the project, Collins said the individual costs would be $61 per quarter for the average house in town.

EDM Studio project architect Chris Wante presented the current design proposals based upon information provided from the committee, the activities in progress at the center and details gathered from community inquiries.

Noting the current building proportions of approximately 7500 square feet with roughly 440 square feet dedicated to storage, Wante offered a proposed expansion to approximately 12,500 square feet and 7,500 square feet in storage with a layout more compatible with current use and future needs.

Increases and upgrades would address additional conference and meeting spaces, dedicated healthcare areas to eliminate the need to provide services in a custodial closet as well as expanded and improved ADA accessibility restrooms.

Room for a bakery and café area along with space for a gift shop is also planned as is the expansion of the present kitchen area.

Additional spacing and increases were also outlined for the center’s parking lot along with a fire sprinkler system that will be required with any expansion. Without a town water connection, a pump and storage tank will also be added to the grounds.

Collins said the parking lot expansion would add 20-25 spaces with inclusion of four electric vehicle charging stations which would serve as a potential revenue source for the center.

“We’ve reached out to number of contractors and as we go along, we are hoping that we will have some in kind donations so that the cost of the parking area and the additional parking would be offset with some donations from local contractors,” he said.

Moriarity also told those in attendance that the Friends of Hampden Seniors, a nonprofit organization, has committed to undertaking a capital campaign to solicit donations if the project is ultimately approved.

In terms of design plans, Wante said this is just the beginning.

“Where we are in the process right now is called preliminary design or conceptual design, we’re very early on,” Wante said. “Once the town or if the town approves the project, we’ll move forward into a more specific design process that’s called schematic design, design development and construction documents to be put together with actual drawings so that contractors can build this building.”

The current proposal will go before the Town Meeting on May 13.

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