SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 9, 2013

Letter: Senior center should be in Willows


The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

I was watching Salem TV channel 15 and was surprised to see the Salem City Council in action. I was stunned to see how little some of the councilors feel about the health and welfare of those who will be using the proposed Senior Community Center. Mind you, that facility will cater not only to seniors but also the young and the middle-aged. ...

Because of the contamination saturated in the soil, that area is known as Blubber Hollow. The proposed site for the new facility not only housed a leather factory but also a Sylvania plant. Everyone who has lived in Salem for 40 years or more must remember the large number of employees that were stricken with Sylvania barilium poisoning, of which some died.

In my opinion, even if they clean up that dirty site, the contamination will return, since Blubber Hollow housed around six factories, more or less. This means all of that area is saturated with contamination. So every time it rains, the rainwater will sink into the soil and find its way into the proposed site. No matter what they tell you, it is a no-win situation.

Now, that being said, let us compare the Boston and Bridge streets site with the center the search committee recommended, on Memorial Drive next to Camp Naumkeag, otherwise known as the Girl Scout Camp on the ocean, next to Dead Horse Beach. It offers all of the necessary parking with no pollution.

I might add that the site search committee spent 14 months studying public and privately owned sites. The Memorial Drive site is within walking distance to the Willows Amusement Park, a popular spot for seniors and all ages. Also, all this with no condominium fees, and the city will own it outright. In the summer months, the trolley runs two trips an hour to the Willows.

The difference in cost is Boston and Bridge streets $5 million and Memorial Drive $7 million, a difference of $2 million. In my opinion, the city could sell 5 Broad St., presently the Senior Center, for between $1 and $2 million or more, especially since the housing market has been booming. So using simple arithmetic, the figure of $2 million will now be narrowed down to a few hundred thousand dollars. I am sure that money could be found in free cash. No need to borrow or bond any money.

Also, there was plenty of time in the last year or so to plan the financing of the project, time not to renew the lease for the City Hall Annex on Washington Street. Had the administration not renewed the lease, it would have freed up the $400,000 annual rental fee, which could have been used to finance the new senior-community center, as easy as that. The blame rests with the mayor and some city councilors. All the wasted time was not the fault of the pro-Memorial Drive site citizens; it rests solely with the administration. No foresight and poor financial planning. However innocent, one councilor publicly stated that the process was rigged. I think he should explain what he meant by that statement.

Lastly, the Memorial Drive site is a natural money maker, in that it could be rented out for weddings and other similar functions. It has the potential of making thousands of dollars yearly.

The money to finance the construction and maintenance of the facility is there, and it is not too late to get the project back on track.

Anthony V. Salvo

Salem

Anthony Salvo was mayor of Salem from 1984 to 1989.