May 19 2016

Town Meeting Approves $3.7 Million for Two Projects to Give CoA More Space

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington Town Meeting approved two building projects that will free up room in the Human Services Building for the Council on Aging and the Senior Center. 


The first was $400,000 to renovate the former bank at 33 Center Street the town purchased a couple of years ago. These funds will supplement $1.6 million approved for the building last year that will allow the town to renovate the building enough to move Youth and Family Services from the Human Resources Building there. 


The second was $3.3 million for improvements of the Human Services Building itself. The changes include moving the Boar of Health and Veterans Service Department to new rooms on the second floor to open up more room for the Senior Center. Improvements include a new reception area, additional space in the fitness rooms, two new conference rooms and a program room. There will also be changes in the administrative space to allow for more privacy for seniors consulting doctors or attorneys or other such services. 

Council on Aging Director Marge McDonald said the increased privacy was very important, as now people discuss private issues with a large group of people around. 


There were some concerns raised by Town Meeting members on the two projects.


The first was why only Youth and Family Services was being moved to 33 Center Street. When the plans were laid out last year for the building there were more renovations, including the removal of two walk-in vaults, and enough open space to house Youth and Family Services and the Board of Health. 


Town Administrator John Petrin explained that from the time the cost estimates were made and the project was put out to bid changes in the construction market made the project much more expensive. He said the $400,000 was needed to get fewer renovations than originally planned but enough to allow the one department to relocate. He added that to do the original plan in today’s market would cost over $8 million. 


“We are always balancing budget with needs,” he said. “We took a look and decided we could not get the Board of Health into that building.” 


Another concern raised by some members was that this plan seemed “piecemeal” and without an overarching vision. One thing they pointed to was the backup material that said the Recreation Department will need to move out of the Human Services Building in the future but there is currently no plan as to where or when. 


Chair of the Board of Selectmen Daniel Grattan said the options for the buildings had been examined extensively and this was the best plan for the short-term needs of the seniors. 


“I appreciate this may have appearance of being piecemeal but as we stated these two articles work together,” he said. “We have an immediate need for the Council on Aging and this plan has a substantial positive impact on it. As for the rec. department I don’t know when we’ll have a plan, it could take another two to three years and the Council on Aging can’t wait that long.” 


In the end Town Meeting voted 50 to 35 in favor of the 33 Center Street renovation and 69 to 19 in favor of the Human Services Building project. 

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