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March 4, 2013

Senior center debate persists

Salem: Both sides gearing up for crowd and controversy at March 13 meeting

Debate over the proposed new senior center — an issue in Salem for years — is heating up again.

Last week, even the attempt to schedule a meeting to discuss it drew the scrutiny of city councilors.

In the end, the vote was 6-3 to schedule the meeting for Wednesday, March 13, at 6:30 p.m. Councilors Michael Sosnowski, Todd Siegel and William Legault were opposed. Councilors Arthur Sargent and Paul Prevey were absent.

It was the meeting location — a request of Mayor Kim Driscoll — that was unpopular with some on the board. She asked that it be held at the city’s current senior center at 5 Broad St.

“This is our council chambers. This is where we do our work,” Siegel said, referring to the council chamber at City Hall.

He said he was opposed to having the meeting in a location where it couldn’t be televised live on local cable television.

Legault agreed.

“This is a very important and high-profile discussion that should be as accessible to as many people as possible throughout the entire process,” Legault said in an email after the Thursday night meeting. “If we want to have off-site meetings on important matters like the senior center, then we should work with SATV to install the proper equipment at selected venues.”

Sosnowski, the Ward 2 councilor, said he wanted to make sure microphones at the meeting would pick up “every word” from the audience and that the meeting would be rebroadcast in full, unedited.

Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy noted, however, that the council has held meetings outside of City Hall several times in the past.

“This room (at City Hall) is not conducive to large crowds,” McCarthy said.

Siegel, the Ward 3 councilor, suggested that the meeting be held at Salem High School, which has a television studio and the space to handle crowds.

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