Town Council Votes to Consult with Access Agency

Barbara Bresnahan | February 29, 2012 | Senior Housing; Access Agency; Town Council; Willimantic; Community Action; CAFCA

The town council held a public hearing on Tuesday evening to get public input and to vote on entering into a contract with the Access Agency, a non-profit organization out of Willimantic, which will help consult on using a portion of the former Parker Memorial School site as potential senior housing units.

On Feb. 22, the school board agreed to turn the school over to the town, which was the first step needed for the town to pursue funding for the potential housing project. Because the town can't receive funding opportunities directly and must apply for grants through a non-profit agency, last night's decision was an integral part in the process of expanding the town's senior housing.

Town Manager Steve Werbner noted that Tolland has Winding River and Old Post Village as elderly housing facilities, but that the waiting lists are "very large."

Tolland Housing Authority Executive Director Pat Woods reiterated Werbner's concerns, stating that the town only has 30 units and 57 on waiting lists. "We can go years without vacancies," she noted. "We had three [vacancies] last year, but by the time we call, they've passed away, found other arrangements or can no longer live on their own. There is definitely a need."

Werbner said the town has made a committment to expand its senior housing, and in an effort to meet this goal feels excited about the possibility of using the unused portion of Parker School for that purpose. A third of the school is being used for the town recreation center and offices.

"The school itself is in difficult repair and will cost $1.1 million for roof and heating concerns, and that's just the beginning of repairs," added Werbner. "You can't just move back in." The other option is a total rehab, said Werbner, adding that both the superintendent and Birch Grove principal have said they don't see a need to retain the facility.

Of the approximately 40 residents in attendance at the meeting, no major concerns were addressed, however, town council member Sam Belsito said he felt as though Parker Memorial School will be needed in the "near future" and plans to introduce his ideas after upcoming budget talks. Werbner noted that the evening's vote did not change the status of the school, only allowed Access Agency to proceed with the gathering of facts.

"We still have time to figure out the long-term plan for Parker School," he said.

Bresnahan, Barbara. Tolland Patch. "Town Council Votes to Consult with Access Agency". March 5, 2012.

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