Cohasset Senior Center in limbo

Today is National Freedom of Information Day.

The local press (including us)  has been strangely silent on the deliberations being held on the new Senior Center located at 91 Sohier Street. That is mainly because Cohasset selectmen are not sharing their concerns about the now-built project with the public. Selectmen are holding an executive session on the same tonight.

We know there are concerns. And we believe selectmen and town counsel are truly doing a due diligence on the project. But where were selectmen, particularly chair Diane Kennedy, when this building for which Town Meeting never saw the plans, was built? Kennedy was liaison to the Town’s Senior Center project.

It now appears from various sources all of whom wish not to  be named, that Cohasset’s new Senior Center will not be turned over to the Town for $1. 

Selectmen  can’t buy it and they can’t lease it. It is stuck in a myriad of legal tangles.

As Annual Town Meeting approaches, Cohasset selectmen and Town Manager Chris Senior are reportedly having small heart attacks with regard to how to handle the gift that is no longer a gift.

Selectmen are waiting for the SSL to obtain approval from the Division of Public Charities that the Senior Center’s primary use would be for seniors, but would not exclude other municipal uses. Tinytown Unleashed has no idea of where the now-built project stands now. But here’s where it all started:

In 2009 the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the SSL League was authorized to earmark $1 Million for the construction of a new senior center, with distribution of the amount being contingent on confirmation from the Town of Cohasset that all additional funds needed to complete the senior center project had been raised.

In 2011 former town manager Mike Coughlin worked with town counsel to create a Memorandum of Understanding.

At the first meeting of the Senior Center committee now former selectman Paul Carlson was elected chairman. The committee agreed on the need for a 5-year financial study before any building would take place. The financial study would never take place.

It was also agreed to and acknowledged:

1. The Center would be built under prevailing wage laws. This didn’t happen
2. The SSL was told it must engage in a fundraising campaign before any Town land was transferred to the project.

Oct. 22, 2011: Legal issues are being raised by Town Counsel. Coughlin says he has reservations about transferring any town money to the project until there is a project to which all have agreed.

November, 2011: Various discussions are held about Glenn Pratt’s wearing too many hats; Pratt may have a criminal conflict of interest in the project. There is an opinion that Pratt should not participate in any discussion involving the Senior Center. Pratt is the Town’s Emergency Management Director and is on the Social Service League. Pratt ignores his conflict.

Everyone keeps agreeing that there will be no land transfers from the Town to the project until the fundraising is completed.

December 2011: A (non-binding) Memorandum of Understanding is agreed upon. One of the conditions is that no expenditure of money from the Wilcutt Fund that is managed by the SSL can be spent until sufficient additional funds are raised to permit the completion of the project.

What eventually happened is the SSL never was able to raise the funds and borrowed another Million dollars from the Wilcutt fund that must be paid back by someone at some point in time.

The Year 2011 ends. Thank goodness.

The Town Manager is fired in early 2012 and an acting town manager takes his place.The acting town manager is not particularly interested in the Senior Center and offers little and no guidance.

At the 2012 Annual Town Meeting the Town votes the land transfers, without a legal binding agreement between the SSL and the Town. The SSL proceeds with plans for construction, having already hired a project manager in 2011.

June 2013 – the Town is advised by Pratt and Paul Kierce of Elder Affairs that the Town will not get to vote on the project until the project is complete. Allegedly, the Senior Center Planning Committee is working on a budget for the senior center and all costs associated with it. No one ever sees that budget, although they may have had one.

May 7, 2013 – Selectmen vote to approve land transfers for the senior center. There is still no binding legal agreement.

TODAY.

The first person to have done a due diligence report on the building that now sits on Town land at 91 Sohier Street is Town Manager Chris Senior.

The world is now waiting for Attorney General Maura Healy, who is in charge of the Division of Charities, to opine on how the Town can use the building (municipal or elderly purpose only). And of course there are other questions.

There is a bright new building waiting for its eager, intended occupants. The SSL had only good intentions in moving this forward. But the handshake and exchange of $1.00 is long gone and Cohasset is waiting to learn what it must pay the piper.

Some say the Town will have to buy the project outright, including all the pledges.

Cohasset Selectmen must consider the public and come clean on its dilemma. Soon.

 

 

 

© Copyright 2015 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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