At its monthly meeting this week, the Council on Aging (COA) board of directors considered tabling its funding request for a $4.3 million addition to Hildreth House, known as Phase 2, but ultimately decided against withdrawing it. The request is on the warrant for the June 20 Spring Town Meeting, and some members thought it best to delay it in light of the impact COVID-19 is having on both the town’s and some residents’ finances.
In preparation for the meeting, Chair Beth Williams had contacted Capital Planning and Investment Committee (CPIC) member Nate Finch to ask if the project would “lose its place in line” if the COA chose to delay the request until next year. According to Williams, Finch said he didn’t think so and he thought it would be a good idea. But the Select Board liaison to the COA, Lucy Wallace, told the board she had spoken with CPIC Chair John Seeley, who was concerned about the town’s long-term debt, and he told her the project would have to be reconsidered next year if the request were delayed. Wallace said that delaying the project might be viewed as a generous gesture, but added, “I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that you’d be back in line again.”
Williams said COVID-19 has endangered the future of group meals at the Hildreth House, which is already too small to serve more than 30 people packed shoulder to shoulder in the dining room. Most members agreed that the need for the addition was greater now, and that there was nothing to lose by going forward. The board voted 5-2 in favor of keeping the request on the warrant.