SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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March 4, 2013

Senior center debate persists

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

(Continued)

In the end, the council approved setting the meeting at the senior center. Salem Access Television will tape the meeting and rebroadcast it.

But the controversy is another indication, if any were needed, that this is shaping up to be a major issue. Technically, it’s a discussion of a new financing plan for the center, proposed for the intersection of Boston and Bridge streets — not an issue that would normally draw a big crowd. But all sides are gearing up for what could be a reopening of the whole issue of where to site the senior center, as some are still unhappy with the mayor’s and City Council’s choice of locations.

Plans for the community/senior center were approved by the City Council in 2009. This winter, the council is considering Driscoll’s request to bond for the city’s portion of the senior center project. The financing plan would be the final OK needed to build the Gateway Center, a public/private development that would include offices, 374 parking spaces and a 20,000-square-foot community center.

Four years ago, Councilors Jerry Ryan, Michael Sosnowski and Arthur Sargent — all of whom are still on the council — voted against the location at Boston and Bridge streets.

The City Council will have a regularly scheduled meeting on March 14, the day after the senior center discussion. The board could vote on the financing proposal then, but several councilors said they were opposed to voting so soon after the March 13 meeting.

Ryan, the council president, told councilors the board wouldn’t have to vote on March 14; they would do so only if councilors choose to move the issue out of committee on March 13.

“I thought this (the March 13 meeting) was a good compromise with the mayor’s office,” Ryan said.

Driscoll could not be reached for comment.

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