CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Council on Aging, specifically Coordinator Carole Hilderbrand and the volunteers, were lauded in a letter sent to the Board of Selectmen and read at Tuesday's board meeting.
The letter, sent by the COA Board of Directors, praised Hilderbrand and her volunteers for growing both attendance and the number of programs offered at the Community Center.
"Using her substantial experience and professional contacts, Carole has worked with citizens of all ages to access services and providers to obtain food, heating, electricity, and other life sustaining necessities to residents," the letter read. "In the short three months that Carole has taken the reins at the Senior/Community Center ... she has increased the number of volunteers and is now serving lunches to 22-45 people, up from 5-12 regular attendees in the past."
Some of the COA programs highlighted during the meeting Tuesday included bingo, line dancing for no cost (Tuesdays in October 12:30-1:30), quilting and needlework classes (first and third Thursday of every month from 1-3) along with the usual senior lunches on Monday through Wednesday.
Hildebrand has also started delivering welcome boxes to new senior residents in Cheshire. The boxes contain an invitation to a free lunch at the center, handknit mittens, a brochure with information on all the programs at the center, and, most importantly, homemade cookies.
"We want to break the ice [with new residents] so this is our start for doing that," Hilderbrand said. "I don't want the program to be just seniors but also a community center."
Hilderbrand was quick to thank the community for their support.
"People have been fantastic about volunteering and donating. Without the donations, the food pantry that's run out of this office would not be in existence," she said.
Hilderbrand ended the presentation by holding up an "I Love Cheshire" T-shirt that is on sale at the community center for $15. All proceeds benefit the food pantry.
In other business, Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV said a couple of small road projects will be put on hold until the spring. Specifically catch basin work and Maple Drive repairs.
"With the lack of interest in the catch basin job as well as some omissions, for example curbing, in the Maple Drive bid package we put out, I notified the interested parties the invitation to bid was canceled and that we will re-advertise it for work to begin this spring," St. John said. "In the meantime we are going to make some small repairs to the road for the winter and I plan to visit the residents on Maple Drive to let them know what the plan is."
Work also continues at the former Cheshire School. St. John said all the fire safety work has been completed and that "they have received their necessary licenses and permits" to enable the Youth Center to start its programs immediately.
St. John expects EDM architects to have its final report on the heating pipes soon and for the repair process to begin shortly.
Specialty Minerals has offered to donate aggregate to clean up the roads surrounding the school. Selectman Ron DeAngelis is going to work with the Adams company toward getting this done. The material was originally intended for a different road project but Chairman Robert Ciskowski felt the material was better suited for lighter traffic around the school.
St. John also gave an update on the town's progress toward achieving Green Community status with the state.
"I signed a memorandum of understanding with Guardian Energy to conduct an energy audit and prepare an energy reduction plan. This should be back to us by the end of September, in time for the deadline to submit as a Green Community," St. John said. "That's by and large the last thing we're waiting for."
Some of the steps the town would need to take for this status would be cutting energy use by 20 percent over the next five years, buying only fuel-efficient vehicles, and minimizing energy costs for new municipal construction. Becoming a Green Community would qualify the town for funding opportunities for clean energy projects in municipal buildings, facilities, and schools. More than 200 municipalities hold Green Community designation encompassing about three quarters of the state's population. As of 2018, more than $85 million dollars had been disbursed to cities and towns throughout Massachusetts.
The still unresolved solution to the quickly deteriorating road conditions at Pine Valley trailer park will be discussed in an executive session at next week's Selectmen's meeting. The roads at the privately owned park have been cited as a safety issue by the Board and St. John has been working with town counsel on a solution.
"We are advancing," he said, but noted due to potential litigation issues it should be discussed in Executive Session. "Not that we are involved in any [litigation] right now but you never know."
There was an executive session scheduled for this week's meeting as well to discuss the candidates for the vacant highway department superintendent position. The town received about a dozen applications and the board hopes to conduct interviews next month.
The next meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 6:30 at the Senior/Community center.
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