Cohasset Selectmen asking for due diligence on new Senior Center

The status of the newly built “Senior Center” located at 91 Sohier Street has pretty much been discussed in executive sessions over the past several months.

The Social Service League spearheaded the project, which has resulted in a state-of-the-art, $3.7 million, 8,000-square-foot facility. Marita Carpenter, president of the Social Service League, said the group had raised $3.2 million to date from both public and private donations. She told selectmen Tuesday the group had $500,000 left to raise.

Town Manager Chris Senior told the Cohasset Advisory Committee earlier this week that he didn’t expect that Elder Affairs would be located to the building until after June 2015.

Article 6 of the Cohasset Nov. 17th STM warrant asks the town to provide $15-$20,000 to conduct a due diligence analysis and investigation of the ways and means of the Town acquiring, leasing  and/or occupying the privately owned building built by the Social Service League. At issue are various trust fund legalities that must be satisfied and a budget must be created to support the housing of Elder Affairs at that site. Senior will also be taking a serious look at procurement. If the article is voted, Senior will deliver a final report to selectman by January 31, 2015.

Senior plans to engage the services of engineers and architects to analyze the building and its heating requirements, etc. The Advisory Committee voted in favor of the article. Selectmen will hold one more executive session before Special Town Meeting.

Paul Kierce, chairman of Elder Affairs said he understands that the building, which is 6-9 months ahead of schedule, is “more than tables and chairs and pots and pans”. Kierce added that he would like to move a little quicker on the due diligence process. “Most of the answers are right here in our own backyard”.

“We’re not in the business to stall,” Select Chair Diane Kennedy said. “Hopefully this (Article 6) will fast-track the project.” She added that Article 6 would give selectmen and town boards the information they needed to legally use the building. “We don’t have a handle on that, yet,” Kennedy said.

Questions needing answers

According to town officials there is a question as to how the building can be used. The Mary Hooper trust fund says the building can be used for “senior” purposes only. The Hooper donation was $1M.

Can the Town justify support of the operating and maintenance costs of a single purpose building for elder affairs, if it is determined that the building cannot be utilized for any age group but elders? Under Article 6 the Town will to do an assessment of operating costs, maintenance costs and determine how those costs will fit into the Town’s budget and impact any other departments.

The Social Service League has pledged $2M of the $3.7 million construction costs, but they have to go the Attorney General to get a sign off on the $2M and they can’t do that until they have a plan in place – i.e, a lease or an agreement, or possibly a sale.

While the Social Service League has raised a lot of money, it is in the form of pledges over three to five years.

If the Town were to take over ownership of the building, would ownership put the Town in a position to be fined for violation of the procurement laws? The building was not constructed under the prevailing wages law. In 2011 the Attorney General told the Town that the Senior Center project would have to be built under this law: MGL c.149, s.26: Public Works, wages as it would ultimately be owned by the Town and be a municipal building. If it is not to be owned by the Town or if it is never to be owned by the Town, then the procurement law might be irrelevant.

There is $30,000 in article 5 of the warrant entitled Allocations of Funds for One-Time Costs that would pay for a short-term lease through June 2015 if it were determined that the Town could legally lease the building.

Marita Carpenter told Selectmen the Social Service League was holding an Open House on November 16 (the day before Special Town Meeting) from 1-4 p.m, at 91 Sohier Street.

In related news, Article 10 of the Special Town Meeting warrant put on the warrant by Selectmen asks the Town to vote to establish a revolving fund for new fee-based services provided by the Cohasset Elder affairs Department. The Cohasset Advisory committee did not yet vote on this article. Selectmen will weigh in after Advisors have voted.

© Copyright 2014 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed