Millis COA Director on senior center: “We have to do something”
By Theresa Knapp
In November, residents will be asked to vote yay or nay on building a new senior center. The current COA occupies space on the lower level of the Veterans Memorial Building at 900 Main Street.
That space, says COA Director Patty Kayo, is too small for the town’s current needs and will not meet future needs of the town’s rising senior population.
“Currently, we have six small rooms and there’s no way to hold a lot of programming, only one of those rooms can seat 64 people; and our dining area only accommodates 24 people,” says Kayo. “Meetings that should be held in private are held in public spaces because we just don’t have the room…We have to do something, we’re really not meeting the needs of seniors in that small space but, if we have a new building and we have a program, they will come.”
Kayo says the COA worked with the town’s Permanent Building Committee and an architect to design a building around the program needs of the town.
Earlier this year, focus groups entertained three options including (1) a renovation and (14,855 gross square feet) at the Veterans Memorial Building for $15.5 million, (2) a new building (15,000 gsf) at Cassidy Farm for $16 mil, or (2a) a new building (22,400 gsf) at Cassidy Farm with additional gymnasium space at $21 mil.
Option 2, a new building at Cassidy Farm without the gym, will be on the November warrant.
According to a Frequently Asked Questions sheet shared by the COA, 30% of Millis’ population today is 60 years or older, and the Massachusetts Office of Elder Affairs estimates a further 47% increase in the senior population by 2030, bringing the total to 3,851. It also says the average home in Millis is assessed at $462,618, which means an average annual increase of $266 for the life of the debt exclusion (30 years), the annual amount would decrease over time.
Regarding an increase to tax bills at this time, Kayo says, “The cost is the cost. They project this building will be suitable for 50 years so ‘one and done.’ I work with a lot of the low income seniors in town. I understand it’s tough economic times right now but, of everyone who came to the focus groups, no one said there wasn’t the need.”
If town meeting passes the measure, the next step is a ballot initiative to pass a debt exclusion under Proposition 2 1/2.
According to www.mass.gov, a debt exclusion “increases the amount of property tax revenue a community may raise for a limited or temporary period of time in order to fund specific projects…It does not increase the community’s levy limit nor become part of the base for calculating future years’ levy limits.”
Detailed documents regarding the project can be found at https://bit.ly/3shdLxI.
The full town meeting warrant can be found at https://bit.ly/3DlC4Bd
The Millis Fall Annual Town Meeting will be held at 7:30pm on Thursday, Nov. 10, starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Millis Middle/High School Auditorium located at 245 Plain Street, Millis. Source: www.millisma.gov