Hadley voters give nod to new senior center, library

  • Hadley voters approved Proposition 2½ debt exclusion overrides for a new senior center and library complex in town center. Pictured earlier this year, Maria Konieczny and her mother Jo-Ann Konieczny, the trustee chair for the Goodwin Memorial Library, announced the $3.9 million state grant the town received for the new library. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Plans for the new library in Hadley. The new senior center does not appear on this rendering, but will be located to the right of the library building. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2017

HADLEY — A new library and a new senior center are on their way to being built in Hadley center after residents decisively approved Proposition 2½ debt exclusion votes for both projects Tuesday.

“We did it,” said Jo-Ann Konieczny, chairwoman of the library trustees, as fellow trustees joined her at Hopkins Academy just after the polls closed and the results of the questions were announced by Town Clerk Jessica Spanknebel.

“This vote was for change. This vote was for community,” Konieczny said.

The concept of building community was a sentiment echoed by Jane Nevinsmith, chairwoman of the senior center building committee.

“I think people came ready to move forward with new buildings and new ideas,” Nevinsmith said.

More than 61 percent of voters supported the $1.8 million in additional money for the senior center, 704-447. That will be combined with $5.3 million already approved by residents in January, which will allow a $7.1 million, 12,000-square-foot building to be built in an open field behind the aging Hooker School building on Middle Street, the senior center’s current home.

The $3.8 million needed for the 11,800-square-foot library, which will be constructed on the site of the Hooker building, earned 59 percent support, 683-470. That money will be combined with a $3.9 million provisional grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners awarded last summer. An additional $300,000 is being sought in fundraising.

With a turnout of 1,155 voters, almost 30 percent of Hadley’s 3,916 registered voters cast ballots.

The approval of both projects means that taxpayers will pay close to $100 more annually in property taxes for an average single-family home for the next 20 years.

Town Administrator David Nixon said current estimates show that the average home, which this year is assessed at $313,700, has a $3,629 tax bill. That tax bill is already expected to rise by $155, to $3,884, based on the 2½ percent increase allowed under Proposition 2½, and with the assessment for the average home going up to $321,300, according to information provided by Assessor Dan Zdonek.

The “raw impact” to the tax bill for both projects is actually higher, Nixon said, with an additional $39.89 annually for the senior center, and an additional $81.87 for the library. But the actual impact is reduced because other debt for earlier projects is paid off.

The new senior center has a projected opening by summer 2019. Nevinsmith said it is being designed by EDM of Connecticut and Lifespan Design of Ohio to meet the needs of the town’s 1,800 senior citizens. This includes eliminating curbing from the parking lot that can pose tripping hazards, installing lighting that promotes safety and having easily accessible bathrooms.

Once open, construction on the library can begin, with the first task demolishing the Hooker building. The cost of razing that building is incorporated into the project price tag.

Konieczny said groundbreaking won’t be until sometime in 2019, with the library’s opening date uncertain.

A lot of work can begin now that the money is available, including a meeting with the MBLC and deciding whether to retain Johnson Roberts Associates Inc. of Somerville, which did the preliminary designs for the new building.

“Now we can form building committee and start getting ready to build a library,” Konieczny said.

A final exterior design will be reviewed by the town’s Historical Commission to ensure it fits with the streetscape of the other historic buildings nearby.

“It will be something the town will be proud of,” trustee Caryn Perley said.

Andy Morris-Friedman, chairman of the Community Preservation Act Committee, said he could see CPA money being sought and used for creating a new public park and landscape near the buildings once they are open.

For Shattuck Road residents Mark and Abby Smith, it was important to come out to support the projects, even if their children will be in college by the time the library opens and it’s uncertain if they would use the senior center in the future.

“I think it’s something good for the town of Hadley,” Mark Smith said. “Hadley is a growing community and needs to get out of adolescence and get to the modern age.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com