Voters attending Monday night’s special town meeting demonstrated some well-placed respect for their elders by overwhelming appropriating $40,000 to explore different options for a new senior center facility.
With passage all but ensured by a healthy turnout of spirited senior voters, the measure marked the first official step in addressing cramped quarters at the existing center, located at 75 Central St.
Supporters say that building, constructed 20 years ago on a small parcel of town-owned land formerly occupied by the old Carpenter School, has since been outgrown by a booming elder population attracted by enhanced programming.
“We need a larger building with better parking,” said Paul Gookin of Atherton Road.
In addition to senior activities, the current building houses Foxboro Human Services, an agency dedicated to assisting local residents in need of social services interventions.
On Monday night, several speakers suggested that planning for the existing building had been unduly rushed, resulting in a facility with insufficient parking and limited prospects for future expansion.
Among them was Joan Gallivan of Cannon Forge Drive, who successfully amended the proposed measure to stipulate that any future building study would have to consider options other than a new senior-only facility.
“I am trying to make sure what we end up with is more like a community center,” Gallivan said. “I think that’s the type of concept a town like us really needs.”
While advocates claimed they always had intended to consider a multi-generational, community-based facility, Gallivan’s amendment ensures that prospect will be given equal weight when contemplating different options.
Ultimately, that could be a new, larger senior-only facility or a multi-generational hub incorporating recreation, healthy-lifestyle and learning programs for all ages.
Milli Greene, who chairs the Council on Aging advisory board, agreed with Gallivan’s suggestion while stressing the need address the space issue.
“We don’t want to settle for a Band-Aid,” Greene said. “We need a professional solution.”
Voters approved funding for the so-called feasibility study by a 188-10 margin,
Funding for the senior center study was among a dozen items facing voters during the annual fall session Monday night. Convened at the high school auditorium at 7:30 p.m. by Town Moderator Frank Spillane, the meeting was attended by several hundred voters, who gave a thumbs-up to all but one of the proposed warrant articles.
Also approved with little opposition were a number of housekeeping items, including accepting Montgomery Way and VanDoorn Avenue as public streets, removing the deputy police chief position from civil service and extending the town’s affordable housing trust until July 2025.
According to advisory board members the trust, which currently has a balance of $325,000, was established to promote and preserve affordable housing in Foxboro to benefit low- and moderate-income persons.
Also approved with no discussion was a $253,000 request to fund a two-year contract extension with the local police union. The agreement includes a 2 percent cost-of-living increase as well as a menu of stipends and incremental compensation opportunities – most of which existed previously, though some at lower rates.
Lastly, three related proposals aimed at shoring up Foxboro’s animal control laws received a mixed reception from voters. Two of the measures, both intended to improve the regulation of kennels in different areas of town, easily passed muster.
“We’ve had some issues with personal kennels in town and we’re just trying to clean things up,” explained Town Clerk Robert Cutler, who assisted new animal control officer Caycee Bailey in preparing the request.
But a third proposal focusing on the process for evaluating complaints about nuisance pets or other domesticated animals was rejected by a 78-44 margin.
At issue was a provision that would allow selectmen to delegate responsibility for judging animal-related complaints to the town manager.
Noting than such cases can be emotional for affected parties, former selectwoman Lynda Walsh suggested that selectmen have an obligation to weigh in personally.
“There are certain things we put them in that seat for that you’ve just got to do,” Walsh said.
Town Manager William Keegan explained the provision was inserted in response to a complicated animal hearing which took over a year to resolve and ultimately involved a court challenge, adding that selectmen had to take time off from work in order to testify.
“I’ve done hearings on dogs for years and I’ve never had to send one away,” Keegan added. “I’m not a dog hater. I’m not an animal hater.”
But voters concurred with Ed Lawton of North Street, who said that although he agreed with the general direction of the article, it was flawed in several aspects.
“I believe this really needs some more work,” Lawton said.