Reading Committee Explores Senior Center Site Options and Community Engagement

The Reading Center for Active Living Committee recently engaged in a comprehensive evaluation of potential sites for a new community and senior center. The discussions were focused on finding the most suitable location that meets the center’s needs and aligns with the community’s expectations and financial constraints. The evaluation process considered various factors, including the design and functionality of the buildings, environmental considerations, and the community’s input.

A significant portion of the meeting was dedicated to discussing the conceptual designs for the new senior community center, which highlighted the importance of dedicated space for the over-60 population. The committee reviewed feedback from recent community forums, with the inclusion of a gymnasium at the center sparking considerable debate. The potential locations for the center were also a focal point, with the Oakland Road Site, the Pleasant Street Site, and the Simon Way Site under consideration. Members discussed the historical significance of the Pleasant Street building and the challenges related to the different sites, including infrastructure, neighboring property concerns, and road safety near the Pleasant Street Site.

The committee expressed the importance of further discussion, especially regarding the Pleasant Street building and its possible alteration. They had an initial positive conversation with the historical commission and emphasized the need for community engagement and transparent communication with the public. To achieve this, open houses at the Pleasant Street Center were suggested for April, giving town meeting members and other committees an opportunity to understand the need for a new or renovated senior center.

In preparation for the town meeting, members debated the content to be included in the submission materials. The committee considered using visual aids from previous presentations and displaying materials at the library for broader community outreach. The goal was to package the information and provide a summary of the process and timeline for the town meeting.

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The committee discussed the timeline for the project, proposing a May timeframe for a recommendation to the board and a special town meeting in September, contingent on the completion of the schematic design phase over the summer. There were concerns about giving the community adequate time to digest and support the project, leading to the suggestion of holding a separate special town meeting from the regular November town meeting for additional community engagement.

Assessing the site criteria was another area of discussion. The committee worked on narrowing down 36 criteria to 12, with some members raising concerns about the weighting system and ensuring that all relevant criteria were included. The members deliberated on prioritizing general areas over specific criteria and considered re-evaluating the distribution of points between different assessment categories. The possibility of simplifying the evaluation criteria by collapsing certain categories, such as environmental factors, into broader classifications, was also discussed.

The suitability and usability of the sites were issues, with members concerned about the potential constraints of the Pleasant Street Center’s three-floor layout and the overall flow of spaces at the various locations. Specific site considerations, including the presence of an underground tank at the Pleasant Street Center and the acquisition of adjacent sites, were also discussed, along with the proximity to community resources and services.

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The potential for grant opportunities and securing additional funding for the center was discussed, with members referencing experiences from other towns in obtaining financial support for similar projects. The assessment of environmental factors, such as wetlands and flood plains, was debated with the intention of streamlining the criteria.

The committee also discussed the criteria for selecting a site, emphasizing the importance of capturing the building’s design and functionality, the constraints of Pleasant Street, and the need to differentiate between yes/no issues and those requiring a ranking. Traffic conditions, parking, and the layout of the sites were highlighted as concerns, particularly in relation to their impact on the elderly clientele.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Town Manager:
Matt Kraunelis
Elderly Affairs Board Officials:
Renato Assini, Nora Bucko, Michael Coltman, Mark L. Dockser, John O’Neill, John Parsons, John Sasso, Genevieve Fiorente (Community Services Director)

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