Senior Center ‘Soft Opening’

Ribbon-cutting and walkthrough on Oct. 26

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Barbara Scuccimarra, who represents Philipstown in the Putnam County Legislature, said Oct. 4 that the long-awaited, county-owned senior center at the Butterfield redevelopment complex in Cold Spring will have a “soft” opening on Friday, Oct. 26, about 10 days before the general election, in which Scuccimarra is being challenged by Philipstown Town Board Member Nancy Montgomery.

Asked what was meant by a soft opening, Scuccimarra said on Oct. 10 that the county is waiting on the furniture to be delivered. While everything could fall into place by Oct. 26, she said it’s more likely the event will be a ribbon-cutting and walkthrough with County Executive MaryEllen Odell.

The Lahey Pavilion and Building No. 2 (File photo by Michael Turton)

Members of the Philipstown Town Board and Cold Spring Village Board also will be invited, along with members of the public, Scuccimarra said.

The center, officially named the Friendship Center in Philipstown, is located in the former Lahey medical offices pavilion. Work began in 2017. Putnam uses the term “friendship center” for other county senior facilities.

In April, when the county proposed spending an extra $300,000 to finish the renovation, Maureen Fleming, the Kent supervisor who is challenging Odell for her job, attacked the county executive for fiscal mismanagement. The county had budgeted $1.23 million for the project, but the low bid came in at $1.365 million leaving a gap of about $134,000.

The county Legislature approved taking $300,000 from county reserves to cover the shortfall and purchase kitchen equipment and furnishings. New York State also supplied $500,000.

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5 Responses to "Senior Center ‘Soft Opening’"

  1. Kathleen E. Foley   October 14, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Full disclosure to this comment: I am a volunteer for Scuccimarra’s challenger, Nancy Montgomery, as well as for the campaign for Maureen Fleming, challenger to MaryEllen Odell. I and others have attempted since July to FOIL detailed financial information, construction timelines, program plans and budget for the Friendship Center. One request was met with this response from the County Law Department: “. . .due to the voluminous scope of the July 23rd FOIL Request, including the time involved in locating the records, among other factors that necessitate additional response time, you can expect to receive a response on or about December 3, 2018.” Conveniently, after Election Day.

    We then asked if documents could be provided as they were located, in a rolling fashion. The response was: “to the extent that certain portions of your July 23, 2018 FOIL Request may be construed as calling for documents that may be obtained and reviewed by a date earlier than December 3rd, we will endeavor to provide any such documents as they become available.” Guess what? None have been delivered.

    An additional FOIL submitted on 9/19/18 to the Office of Senior Resources asked specifically and exclusively for the Friendship Center’s program plan and budget. It was met with this response: “we are in the process of locating and reviewing the documents requested (to the extent that they exist).” To a follow up inquiry I was told I could expect a response regarding their existence by September 24th. It sure is taking a long time to find documents I would have thought would be right on the desks of an office nearly ready to open a new senior center.

    It’s surprising how quickly work gets done when incumbents are facing a vote. As of September 9th, the Friendship Center had only rough plumbing and drywall. This was work done way back in winter of 2017 by County Highway crews to divide the Lahey interior. Under the terms of a ridiculous lease signed on the public’s behalf, payment of rent to site owner Paul Guillaro commenced not with a certificate of occupancy, but with the division of interior space. Since that time, the Odell administration has bonded (borrowed) $800,000 and taken $300,000 out of the Capital Reserve Project Account for the build-out and furnishings of the Friendship Center. Strangely, none of the work was done as of September. Where has the money gone? Plus, we’ve paid rent all this time — $227,458 in fact. And all the while not a single senior has been able to receive services at the site. All of this is a matter of public record.

    Given the condition of the Friendship Center right now, workers are going to have to work hard and fast, and inspectors are going to have to race through, so the space is ready for the public “walkthrough” that Scuccimarra and Odell are hosting. Hopefully the budget and program plan also will be available for the public that day. We’ll all be very happy indeed when our seniors finally get the services they’ve been promised by Odell and Scuccimarra for so long. But none of us will be happy that the public purse has been so thoroughly raided in the process.

  2. Bob Ferguson   October 15, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Thanks to both the Fleming/Montgomery campaign for enlightening the public about the Friendship Center in Cold Spring financial debacle, which will cost the taxpayers almost $3 million over the lifetime of the lease which, by the way, is for a “rented space” with nothing to show for Putnam County’s investment. As a senior myself, I am not opposed to the Friendship Center, but appalled by the excessive misuse of taxpayer funds on this project and the delay in its completion only to be rushed now for a “soft opening” before the election.

    It is time we taxpayers and concerned citizens take a stand against the Odell administration’s mismanagement of our taxpayer funds. On Nov. 6, Election Day, you will have the opportunity to vote them out of office and vote in Maureen Fleming, a truly qualified and fiscally competent candidate, for Putnam County Executive.

  3. Peggy Schatzle   October 18, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    The Philipstown senior center is a reality thanks to Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, who will lead us in opening the doors of our new friendship center this month. The center is long overdue!

    Her opponent, Maureen Fleming, and District 1 candidate Nancy Montgomery obviously don’t get it. They stood in front of the Butterfield Center and talked about wasteful spending and poor management. Obviously they need to understand that we deserve more in Philipstown and that, after decades of wrangling, the Odell administration brought services to Cold Spring.

    Thank you, MaryEllen, you surely have my vote and the vote of all my family and friends. You have accomplished what many said was impossible.

  4. Carolyn Bachan   October 20, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    While I do not object in principle to a county-funded senior center in Cold Spring and I do not begrudge the seniors in our community of having a fine place to congregate and have meals and activities together, I do object to the rent paid for raw space (which the taxpayers of Putnam have to pay) being comparable to the rent for finished space. I also object to the exclusive use of the space by only one public-service unit.

    Particularly with respect to the second point, it seems that the seniors using this space (and it appears there will be well fewer than 100 people) will have exclusive use five days a week and only about five hours per day. We taxpayers will be paying for vacant space, most of the time, to be used by no one. How dumb is that?

    Meanwhile, many parents and school administrators cry out for a decent space for teens, well-documented in this publication and elsewhere. This space has been announced as having facilities that would be appropriate to either age group.

    Moreover, I can think of several other county or local government initiatives that could use the off-hours for other purposes: a handicap-accessible voting site for example.

    Full disclosure: I’m a senior, too (over 65 yrs old), have never had any children or other relatives in any school in Putnam County, and I have no involvement whatsoever in any of the current election campaigns. So I don’t have any “dog in this hunt” but I am a county taxpayer who is in favor of the productive, and not wasteful, use of my taxes.

  5. mm
    Chip Rowe   November 1, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    The ribbon-cutting at the senior center at the Butterfield development in Cold Spring scheduled for Oct. 26 did not take place. Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra did not respond to our emails asking for details.