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February 8, 2013

Senior center back on agenda in Salem

Mayor's new finance proposal could cause City Council showdown

SALEM — It seems the stage is being set for a showdown over plans for a new senior center.

The mayor needs eight of 11 councilors to approve a new financing plan for the proposed community life center at the corner of Boston and Bridge streets. The matter will come before the City Council for the first time next Thursday, Feb. 14.

But three councilors voted against the plan for the senior center in 2009, and if all of them maintain their opposition, it would take only one more vote to kill the 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 — a project that has been years in coming.

Four years ago, Councilors Jerry Ryan, Michael Sosnowski and Arthur Sargent — all of whom are still on the council — voted against locating a new senior center at Boston and Bridge streets. The rest of the council voted to approve a purchase and sale agreement to purchase a condominium on the first floor of the building for a new senior center.

Ryan says he’s still opposed, because he would prefer a stand-alone senior center.

“I’m pretty sure there’s going to be debate on the location,” Ryan said this week. “I understand what (the mayor) is trying to do, she’s trying to get that corner built. ... Myself, I have an issue with the location.”

Sosnowski and Sargent could not be reached for comment.

Driscoll said she’s briefed councilors who weren’t on the board in 2009.

“We don’t have a Plan B,” Driscoll said. “... This needs eight votes, (and) I’m concerned we may not get there.”

Councilor Robert McCarthy, who voted in favor of the project in 2009, said he hasn’t looked over the details of the mayor’s financing proposal yet, but is in favor of the Boston and Bridge streets location.

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