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March 29, 2013

Senior center gets final OK

Salem: Councilor's request to delay vote for last-minute amendments is rejected

Second passage of the previously approved $4.9 million bond for a new senior center hit a few bumps last night before it was ultimately approved by the Salem City Council.

It was the final OK needed for construction to start on the planned community/senior center at the corner of Boston and Bridge streets — a project that has been years in coming.

Councilor Michael Sosnowski asked for the vote to be delayed two weeks while several amendments could be negotiated with the project developer, High Rock LLC.

Citing concerns over contamination at the property, a former Sylvania plant, Sosnowski proposed a list of six stipulations for the project design and construction, from removal of contaminated underground “hot spots” and installation of a “state-of-the-art” vapor barrier under the building to having an independent company monitor the site cleanup and adding charcoal to the property’s wells, if the groundwater is found to be contaminated.

Sosnowski said he had run the stipulations by the developer’s attorney, who had verbally agreed to the list. The two-week delay was needed, Sosnowksi said, to negotiate a written agreement from the developer.

Sosnowski said he wouldn’t vote to approve second passage of the senior center bond until the city receives written agreement from the developer for the six stipulations.

“If we don’t get that in writing, I’m going to vote no,” Sosnowski said. “My purpose here is to protect the seniors and anyone that goes in this building. ... I’m not going to stick my head in the sand any longer.”

After discussion, the City Council voted 7-4 against Sosnowski’s motion to delay the vote two weeks. Voting in favor were Councilors Todd Siegel, Arthur Sargent, Paul Prevey and Sosnowksi.

Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy said it was “troubling” that Sosnowski went outside the council — using a chemist and attorney not affiliated with the city — to develop and draft the six stipulations.

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