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Clarksburg Takes Over Senior Center

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Council on Aging is expected to nominate more members on Monday morning that can ensure the board can continue.
The fate of the Senior Center has been clouded in recent months as the Council on Aging's members dwindled below the minimum number and they considered dissolving. An influx of interest delayed the center's closure as the town and volunteers sought to find a path forward. 
But it's been difficult for long-term members to begin a transfer of the reins and the Select Board last week voted to take over operations of the Senior Center.
"They've done a lot for the Council on Aging, and the building and everything else, they put their hearts into it," said Select Board member Danielle Luchi last week. "So I want to start off there. But like I was said, they're not wanting to allow the younger seniors, the cross section of seniors, and so that there's a future of the Council on Aging."
Chairman Ronald Boucher on Wednesday also reported that "we parted ways the other day" with COA Director Leah Sherman and that Luchi will step in to coordinate.
"Danielle is agreed to oversee the senior center as a volunteer project ... to help us coordinate things," he said. "I think that can be a very viable building up there. I think it's once it's open to a lot of people, I think you're going to see a lot of people take advantage in music, because it's a great little building. And there's a lot of potential."
Luchi said it was important to build trust with the current COA members and assure them their efforts are not being dismissed but rather that their experience can help train new members to keep the council going. Robert and Lauren Norcross, who have spearheaded the attempts to keep the Senior Center going, agreed.
 "I do think they they may be a little afraid what's going to happen or whatever. And we somehow have to build their trust to realize that we're for a Council on Aging for all 400 Clarksburg residents," Robert Norcross said. "We think there can be good things what's happening here, and it's not going to be a case for younger people want to push your people."
The bylaws do make very clear, he said, that the council should represent a cross section of seniors and "I don't feel that's happening."
The COA requires a minimum of seven members serving no more than two consecutive three-year terms. That's not been the case in years, nor have the nominations been regularly sent to the Select Board for appointment.
Officials are hoping that the first couple of nominations will begin to set that right, though there is concern that the two names being considered are both in their 80s.
The Norcrosses and others at the Select Board meeting noted the COA meets on Monday mornings at 10 a.m., making it more difficult for seniors who may still be working to attend. The COA also has limited hours during the day, which the Select Board reduced further to 10 to 1 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with exception of 4 p.m. on bingo Tuesdays. 
Boucher said the hours could be modified if the COA has activities planned for later hours. Lauren Norcross said there was a possibility of yoga group or other activities.
"I would like to see them use their hours beyond coffee and doughnuts," said Luchi.
Town officials had raised the idea recently of creating a shared community center in the 16-year-old building. The center was built as a home for the Council on Aging that used to meet in the Town Hall basement; it also serves as the town's polling station and evacuation center. 
The Select Board has expressed interest in recent years of better utilizing the building, including leasing it for community and personal events. Boucher said he was checking with the insurance carrier and town counsel to ensure everything was in place for leasing and that the board would determine a fee schedule. 
The building is also set back from the road and Boucher said he would like to see the vegetation cut back and better lighting installed so it is more visible. 
"It's gonna be a work in progress," he said. "So you know what, we take baby steps and see where we're at."

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Clarksburg Applying for Housing Rehabilitation Grant Funds

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The town is applying for about $300,000 in federal money that can help some residents fix up their homes. 
The Select Board on Wednesday voted to sign on to a Community Development Block Grant application with the towns of Lee and Lenox for housing rehabilitation. The application is due on March 6. 
"This is a competitive grant application ... the most amount of money for one town would be $800,000 and for several towns going together, it's up to $1.3 million," explained Patricia Mullins, community and economic development program manager for Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Administrative and program delivery costs would leave about $900,000 — or $300,000 for each town. "By the three towns going in together, the application is stronger because number one, it shows that it's a regional grant and that basically you're sharing and the administrative services that would be provided."
CDBG grants are funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and apportioned by the state's Department of Housing and Community Development for use in economic and community development, housing, social services, preservation and conservation and recreation. Cities are generally entitled to annual grant funding but smaller communities' applications are not guaranteed. BRPC has overseen a number "regional" grants, including for a similar housing rehabilitation grant for Cheshire and New Marlborough
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