The Hopewell Valley Senior Advisory Board (SAB) unanimously passed a motion in May recommending that the three Hopewell Valley municipalities proceed with plans to renovate and expand the present Senior Center in Pennington, regardless of the results of the Hopewell Township online survey gauging local interest in a community center. SAB also asks the municipalities to request promised matching funds from Mercer County.
For MercerMe’s article about the motion, see Hopewell Valley Senior Advisory Board Rejects Township Survey
“I’m here tonight sharing our concerns and discontent about the lack of a senior center…. I understand the priority of education but we often forget about the seniors — we push them aside; we minimize them,” said Fleming, regarding the prior presentation by the Hopewell Valley School District.
The official statement by SAB is the following: “Regardless of the results of the Hopewell Township survey, the Hopewell Valley Senior Advisory Board (SAB) strongly recommends that we proceed with the plans we have in hand to renovate and expand the present Senior Center on Reading Street in Pennington and submit a request to the Mercer County Board of Freeholders for the promised funds, given that no viable alternative can be achieved in the time remaining before the present Senior Center is closed.”
In response to SAB’s position, Township Committee member Kristin McLaughlin at last week’s Committee meeting said, “While it is a 3-municipality group that funds it, it was a unilateral decision by Pennington borough to shut it down. With that in mind, we have been working diligently to solve the problems that that presents to our seniors. We very strongly believe that seniors are a critically important part of our community and, as such, we’ve done things such as work hard to make sure we could hire a full-time senior services coordinator … We’ve put money into our budget for the design of a center because we know that this project needs to go forward. And the results of the survey will be coming out soon — possibly by July 10th. We hear the frustration. We feel the frustration ourselves. We are working with our partners to solve these problems short term and long term. I don’t think we can solve the greater need in a couple of months but we are listening and we’re going to get something done.”
“I’d like to add that Hopewell Township has not only put in money for the design, we have reached out to the Boroughs, and Paul Pogorzelski [the Township Engineer] has used his engineering talents to determine what work needs to be done,” said Hopewell Township Mayor Kevin Kuchinski. “And we have offered to pay our fair share of those bills both from an actual dollar standpoint and shared service standpoint. Our goal is to make sure that the seniors continue to have a place to meet and… we are committed to building what this community is asking for,“ said Kuchinski regarding a community center. Kuchinski urged SAB to continue bringing the issue before the municipalities. “More voices carry the message to the Boroughs to work in partnership to help all seniors across Hopewell Valley.”
At the July 3 Pennington Borough meeting, Weed Tucker presented the motion to the Pennington Council siting the numerous unkept promises to SAB and failed attempts by the Board to establish an adequate replacement for the current location.
“About a month ago, we were focused on ‘The Hut’ off Scotch Road as the future home for a senior center and Hopewell Valley Emergency Services… Despite requests, there has been no definite response from the owners. At about the same time, Pennington Borough advised us that the present Senior Center on Reading Street would no longer be available after December 2017 unless substantial renovations are completed,” said Tucker. “A suggestion for a community center Shop Rite near the Pennington Circle was floated but apparently dropped soon afterward. Or so we thought,” continued Tucker. “Hopewell Township Mayor Kevin Kuchinski requested a joint working meeting of all three Hopewell Valley governing bodies to see if the life of the present senior center could be extended. Such a meeting never happened. Given the lack of definitive response about ‘The Hut,’ I fear that it will not be ready before the present senior center is closed or if at all.”
“We have struck out twice before on plans for a new larger senior center —- first at Pennytown and then at the Capital Health site in Pennington,” Tucker explained. “Now, we learn that Hopewell Township is considering building a community/senior center either off Scotch Road or at The Shop Rite site near the Pennington Circle. Township Committee is circulating a survey seeking input as to which location would be preferred and if it should be a community and senior center or a stand alone senior center. This makes me even more concerned that we will not have a new senior center before the old one is closed.”
When asked about the reception from Hopewell Township, Hopewell Borough and Pennington Borough, Tucker said, “I appreciate and I’m sure members of the SAB join me in appreciating the support by our elected community leaders and the concern expressed by all, especially Pennington and Hopewell Township, for the frustration in achieving an adequate senior center in a timely manner. The SAB motion presented to our governing bodies clearly states the Board’s recommendation to use the plans and pricing in hand and act now to renovate and expand the present senior center and request the matching funds promised by Mercer County. To that end it is urgent for our elected community leaders to meet and discuss the matter as soon as possible.”