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Local News

March 12, 2013

Salem's new senior center may be in trouble

SALEM — Mayor Kim Driscoll is passing out stickers printed with the phrase “Salem senior center: Build it now!” and encouraging people to wear them to tomorrow night’s City Council meeting.

Such encouragement is needed, Driscoll said, because it’s looking like the long-awaited project may not get the support it needs.

“We still have several councilors who are non-committed to this project, or are outwardly opposed,” Driscoll said. “We are concerned we may lose the opportunity to move forward. ... There’s a lot of advocacy going on. I’ve reached out to every single councilor, more than once.”

The City Council will meet at the senior center, 5 Broad St., at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow to vet the mayor’s new financing proposal for the community life center planned for the corner of Boston and Bridge streets. But both sides expect that it will serve as an opportunity to reopen the whole question of where to build a new senior center.

If councilors conclude discussion tomorrow night and vote to move the issue out of committee, the senior center financing plan will be put on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting of the full City Council.

“My plan is I want to get it out on Wednesday, and try to vote on it or discuss it at the council meeting (Thursday),” Council President Jerry Ryan said. “But it’s up to the will of the council.”

The financing plan is the final OK needed to start work on Gateway Center, a public/private development that would include offices, 374 parking spaces and a 20,000-square-foot community center — a project that has been years in coming.

Driscoll is asking councilors to approve a bond to pay for the city’s portion of the project. She says the estimated $400,000 in property tax revenue the development should bring in would cover the annual bond payments.

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