HAMPDEN — An effort to renovate and expand the Senior Center met its end this month, at least as currently proposed.

Residents opted not to support the Proposition 2½ debt exclusion necessary to fund the project at the May 13 Town Meeting as well as the election that followed on May 20.

Requiring a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting, the question looked initially to have passed but the determination was later overturned. After lengthy debate, Richard Green moved the question for a vote and determined there were sufficient votes. While he asserted the vote “easily” passed, his decision was challenged and overturned by a count of 125-75, meaning the affirmative votes did not meet the two-thirds threshold.

The matter was officially put to bed with residents voting against the debt exclusion at the ballot box by a count of 298 “No” votes to 220 “Yes” votes. On a ballot that featured no contested races, the question helped pull in a 12.5% voter turnout.

Members of the Senior Center Building Committee had spent more than a year and a half on the plan for the $6.55 million upgrade. The current facility, built in 1999, has 6,815 square feet of usable space, with 440 square feet of storage. The proposed expansion sought to nearly double the square footage to 12,571 square feet with 770 square feet dedicated to storage.

At a pair of public forums that took place leading up to the Town Meeting and election, Council on Aging Director Rebecca Moriarty and the Senior Center Building Committee had stressed the current facility was overcrowded and lacked necessary storage. Moriarty also pointed to the expected increase in the senior community in town, noting 37% of residents are over age 60, and that percentage is expected to grow as the large Baby Boom generation continues to age.

In the end, concerns about the cost deterred residents from supporting the proposal.

With an average home assessed at $377,000, bonding for the project would have increased residential property taxes by $61 per quarter for the average house in town, it was reported at the forums.

At Town Meeting, Town Accountant Cliff Bombard said the number was harder to estimate for a couple of reasons. The first was the only recent comparison that could be made related to bonding was the police station project and the proposed Senior Center expansion would have been twice the size. Also, he said with the way bonding for such a project works, asking about the cost is essentially asking him to predict what interest rates would be in three years.

With that said, he told residents, “If we were as lucky as we were with the police station … it would cost us about $550,000 per year, more likely on the high end of about $800,000 year.” Given the assumption of the lower cost and the Board of Assessors’ estimates on home values were correct, he guessed the average annual cost realized by taxpayers would be an additional $257.30 annually. If the $800,000 per year figure was realized, the annual cost to residents in an average home would be $361.45.

Resident Erik Vanderleen said he supported taking care of senior citizens but felt the cost of the project was “an extremely large number to add on not even double the size.” He asked for a complete cost breakdown of labor, materials and other considerations, and was told the firm contracted to create the proposal had previously outlined costs in a 15-page presentation.

Resident Mary Ellen Glover also spoke against the debt exclusion, stating that while the motivation behind the project — namely more storage, activity and office space — may be legitimate, it should be pursued in “a more fiscally responsible way.”

“I am particularly concerned that this project is being proposed in isolation, rather than in light of the needs of the entire community,” she added, referring to upcoming decision on whether to replace or upgrade the Fire Department’s headquarters, ongoing concerns related to the condition of town offices, library improvement needs and water issues, among others.

Selectman John Flynn, a non-voting member of the Senior Center Building Committee, argued that the town currently spends 2% of its annual budget on seniors and the project could increase that to about 5%. In contrast, he said, the town spends roughly two-thirds of its budget on children.

“We’re arguing over increasing that less than 10% number to take care of the biggest portion of our population?” he asked.

He acknowledged Glover’s concerns about other projects and added the town has a history of supporting reasonable projects, including school, highway department and water expansions.

“Just because there’s a future need doesn’t mean you dismiss a need you have right now. This is a project we can afford,” he said.

Gary Weiner of the Senior Center Building Committee and Moriarty both rebutted a claim that the Senior Center was only used by three to six people daily. Moriarty responded to the assertion by stating the number is closer to 65-70, with approximately 20 utilizing the lunch program. Weiner held up a copy of the May programming schedule for the Senior Center and said, “There is no way that only three people walk through that door on any given day.” Weiner also stressed the facility’s outreach programming that benefits more than just the senior population.

He argued the committee did not pursue a “Cadillac or a Tesla,” but rather prioritized the needs of the community to maximize the space, adding the committee opted against a more expensive initial plan.

“Out of $144 million that was spent over then past 10 years, or will be spent, the Senior Center took $1.9 million out of that $144 million,” he said. “I don’t think that $6.6 million is an overly large quantity to spend on more than 35, 36 or 38% of the population.”