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Clearing the hurdles

This week the Council on Aging submitted its capital request for a long-planned expansion of Hildreth House, the town senior center. Schematic plans for the expansion were developed at breakneck speed over the summer, in large part because hiring an architect had been delayed for months by bottlenecks originating in Town Hall. But the plan is ready; it calls for a separate building on the east side of Hildreth House that would comfortably accommodate the COA’s needs for the foreseeable future. The COA Board of Directors endorsed the plan this week by a unanimous vote.

This project has faced daunting obstacles since Town Meeting appropriated $40,000 for a Phase 2 redesign in 2018. Full of enthusiasm, the COA’s Phase 2 Subcommittee started work immediately and quickly assembled a list of requirements for an addition to Hildreth House. By late August of that year, the group was ready to look for an architect to develop and refine a design and thought it had plenty of time to do so. But first, town administration and the new Permanent Building Committee had to assemble and approve a request for proposals, which took an unfathomable nine months. It was clearly not a high priority at Town Hall.

By the time the architects were hired, they had to come up with a design and cost estimates in a couple of months. The subcommittee met almost every week this past summer, intent on meeting the Capital Planning and Investment Committee’s Oct. 3 deadline for fiscal 2021 spending requests. Against all odds, the capital request was submitted on time.

Now comes the hard part: Selling the $4.3 million project to the town’s fiscal watchdogs and then to the voters themselves.

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