Still two-dimensional but soon underway
By Michael Turton
With construction of the Philipstown Senior Center set to begin in the next few months as part of the Butterfield redevelopment project, The Current took a quick “tour” of the layout with Barbara Scuccimarra, who represents Philipstown in the Putnam County Legislature and championed the project even as critics persistently questioned its cost.
The lease was signed in December by both County Executive MaryEllen Odell and developer Paul Guillaro, clearing the way for the construction inside Lahey Pavilion, where the 6,000-square-foot center will fill about half the structure. (The other half will contain the U.S. Post Office and an area yet to be rented by the developer.)
The floor plan is on display at the current space leased by the county for seniors, the Cold Spring Friendship Center, at the American Legion Hall on Cedar Street. The pending move will be a welcome change for both seniors and the staff of the Putnam County Office for Senior Resources, who have long lamented the cramped quarters.
Putnam County has issued a call for bids for the construction and outfitting of the center, which will cost an estimated $1.3 million, Scuccimarra said. The floor plan, which the legislator shared with seniors on Feb. 2, is dominated by multipurpose rooms and a dining room, one corner of which will feature a seating area and gas fireplace.
“I wanted a focal point,” Scuccimarra explained. “I don’t want it to look institutional. I want it to be comfortable so seniors come in, sit and chat.”
The multipurpose area can be divided into two or three rooms with retractable walls. “If we need one large room we’ll have it; if we want to do crafts, exercise and a book club at the same time we can do that also,” Scuccimarra said. She said she had heard concerns that the room would not be large enough for exercise classes, but said “there is going to be plenty of room for that. I’m excited about this room; it will be a real draw for people.”
The kitchen will also be a major upgrade over the Friendship Center, with a convection oven, microwave and gas oven that will allow for more on-site cooking. It also will be outfitted with a fire suppression system.
“There was some question whether we needed sprinklers, but it’s not in the village code,” she said. “We have multiple exits, more than we need, and we’re going to have fire extinguishers” throughout the building.
Rhonda Haussmann, the nutrition and site manager, and Ed Cleary, the outreach worker, will both have offices, something that the Friendship Center lacks. A third office will be available for visiting Office for Senior Resources staff, interviews, counseling or as a quiet work space.
The center will have five restrooms, including one for staff, storage, and a mechanical room.
The current entrance to Lahey will be the entrance to the senior center, as well, with an adjacent outdoor patio. There will be 22 parking spaces and the county will provide busing for seniors who need it.
Scuccimarra noted that left turns are now prohibited when entering or exiting the property from Route 9D, which she said was mandated by the state Department of Transportation due to poor site lines at the curve.
The legislator hinted at other uses for the facility. “The first goal is to get the seniors in here,” she said, adding her job will then be “to bring whatever [services] I can to the western side of the county.” Seniors will generally be finished at the center by 2:30 p.m., she said, although evening computer classes or safety courses are a possibility.
“I’d like to have the Department of Motor Vehicles provide services on site once a week,” Scuccimarra said, adding that the building could also serve as a women’s resource center. “People who are having trouble, domestic problems, don’t want to drive 26 miles [to Carmel] to get counseling. Why can’t they have it here?”
She also floated the idea of youth programs. “I’d like to see seniors mentoring some of our youth,” she said, suggesting the large-screen TVs planned for the center could be used for movie nights.
“There are a lot of things we can do here,” she said. “We have never had a county facility on the western side. Let’s take advantage of it.”
Construction on Butterfield’s Building No. 2 is ahead of schedule due to the fair weather. “If you peek inside, you’ll see they’re doing well,” Scuccimarra said. Once the building is finished, the medical offices housed in Lahey will relocate there, making room for construction of the senior center later this spring or over the summer.
The seniors in Philipstown deserve a clean, safe environment, but nothing about this project has ever seemed right to me. Promises are cheap, keeping them can be very expensive, especially when you’re busy covering up incompetence.
I still don’t believe this project should cost $1.3 million. Nobody has demonstrated any competence or understanding of construction or project management. Are they really working hard to get us the best price possible? Perhaps our legislator would like to arrange a public presentation for this project.