One of the largest town meetings in recent memory led to the landslide approval Monday night of a tax measure to fund the construction of a new senior center in Seekonk. The vote was 409-36 in favor of the proposal.
"I think it's great, it's wonderful to get the measure approved," said Dave Bowden, chair of the Senior Center Building Committee, after the meeting.
Bowden said there was a big effort to make sure people came to the meeting at to vote for the measure, especially since it needed two-thirds support for passage.
"Now we've got to put together RFPs, get architects in here ... and go out to bid," Bowden said.
He said the new facility next to Town Hall on Peck Street should be open next summer.
The tax will cost approximately $8 per $100,000 of a property's value and decrease each subsequent year, town officials say. The $2.5 million bond would be paid off in 20 years.
Bowden addressed the town meeting prior to the vote. He said the senior center would be built for no more than $2.5 million. A preliminary floor plan exists, but he said the project could be adjusted so it can meet the budget. Extra features would be funded through the nonprofit Friends of the Friends of the Senior Center, which has started a money-raising campaign.
Several people spoke about the cramped conditions of the current facility for seniors on Pleasant Street. They said Seekonk's seniors deserve something better.
Bernadette Huck, the town's director of human services, said the new building would not just be for seniors, but would also be a community center that could be used for meetings and programs of other groups.
There were some opponents. One resident was disappointed there was no information on the operating cost of the facility. Town Administrator Pam Nolan said that cost would go before the town meeting next year. Bowden said it was impossible to talk cost at this point because the design of the project has not even been finalized. However, he said the building would be energy-efficient, which would save money.
Others said the 9,200-square-foot size in the preliminary floor plan was too big. One man called the project "extravagant." He received a loud round of boos.
Voters already approved the measure at the April 2 election. Passage at the town meeting was the next step. The final design must receive the blessing of the Zoning Board of Appeals.