CPA Funds Sought for Proposed Shade Structure at Senior Center Aid to Elderly and Disabled Taxation Fund also on Town Meeting Warrant
By Grace Allen
Norfolk Town Meeting attendees will be asked to vote on appropriating $100,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to construct a new shade structure at the senior center. Spring Town Meeting is scheduled for May 8 with a rain date of May 15.
Also on the warrant is a request for Norfolk to establish a fund to assist low-income senior and disabled residents with property tax payments. Residents would be able to donate to the fund through their tax bills.
The proposed 26’ x 52’ pavilion would be used for outdoor programming such as exercise classes and musical entertainment, said Sherry Norman, the director of the Council on Aging.
“When COVID hit, we had to pivot to more outdoor programming than we ever did before, and we plan to do it this year, too,” said Norman. “It gets pretty hot out there and there isn’t a lot of shade.”
The Community Preservation Act (CPA) was adopted by Norfolk in 2002. It allows funds to be used for historical preservation, affordable housing, and to maintain open space and recreation.
CPA funds are accrued via a surcharge on real estate tax bills plus a matching percentage (which varies year to year) from the state through the Department of Revenue, explained Cyndi Andrade, the chair of the Community Preservation Committee.
“CPA projects do not impact Norfolk’s general operating budget, as CPA monies are separate,” said Andrade. “The funds are a source for preserving and improving a community’s character and quality of life. Since the structure supports recreational activities, it is an allowable use under CPA rules.”
Any funds that are left over after completion of a project are returned to Norfolk’s CPA account for use on future projects, added Andrade.
Senior centers have struggled with how to keep people connected through the pandemic, and although many have reopened in some capacity, it’s generally accepted that being outdoors is still the safest option. And while the mild weather is welcome, outdoor activities can come with the risk of too much sun or rain.
Norman noted that some senior centers in the area have turned to tents as a temporary solution, but tents have set-up and take-down costs, as well as storage issues.
“And at the end of the day, it’s still a tent,” she said.
One of the first events at the senior center last August soon after reopening was a “tailgate” party. Participants sat in lawn chairs next to their cars and the staff carried food to them. Many of the seniors brought their own umbrellas for shade because it was so hot, said Norman.
The proposed shade pavilion will be located behind the senior center’s parking lot. Norman received initial cost estimates from the same company that constructed the shade pavilion at the Pond Street Recreation Complex, which was one of the first projects in town to use CPA funds.
Both the shade pavilion and the aid fund warrant items received unanimous support from Norfolk’s Advisory Committee at their April 16 meeting. Noted Andrade, “The CPC appreciates the unanimous support of the Advisory Committee for the shade structure project. We look forward to presenting the project to town meeting voters and hope they will also be supportive.”
As the vaccines roll out and more and more people get vaccinated, seniors in particular may be ready to return to their former activities. Yet Norman acknowledged a continuing comfort level with masks and social distancing among many. Gathering safely outdoors will likely remain a popular option for some time to come for the senior center’s patrons.
“People are trickling in. I think they are feeling more comfortable now between getting vaccinated and the weather improving. After being stuck in their houses for a year, people are more than ready to come back. A shade pavilion will definitely extend our outdoor footprint as well as provide a way to get out of the sun.”