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Sunday, May 26 News

New Milford Senior Center gets bigger space

Carolyn Haglund looked around the center’s newly completed expansion, where at least 100 guests filled the old meeting room and the new “grand room.”

A celebration of this size wouldn’t have been possible the past few years, when the room size capped programs at about 65 people. The center had to host larger programs at other spaces in town, including parties at the Maxx and lunches at Trinity Lutheran Church.

“This shows why we needed it,” said Haglund, director of the senior center, taking in the turnout. “We’re so happy. It’s a great space.”

The center serves more than 3,400 seniors annually, she said. According to the 2015 American Community Survey, 4,834 people 62 years or older were living in New Milford, 17.5 percent of the town’s population.

Officials have discussed what to do with the building for several years and how to meet the growing demand and programs at the center. The town secured a grant in 2015 and started construction last July.

The project cost $948,000. Of that, $498,000 was covered using a state Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant and the remainder comes from the Waste Management Fund.

The original scope included doubling the size of the meeting room, added handicapped-accessible bathrooms and improved accessibility. It expanded to include new exercise spaces on the second floor when Social Services left the Richmond Center, where the senior center is housed, and moved to the John Pettibone Community Center.

“Our options are pretty limitless now,” said Jasmin Marie Ducusin, the center’s program coordinator and assistant director.

She said the added program options might help attract younger seniors too.

Haglund said she appreciates the town’s longstanding commitment to its seniors. The Commission on Aging was added to the charter in 1973, with a center established the following year. In 1984, the center moved into the Richmond Center, which was built as a school in 1911, but was re-purposed as town office space in the 1980s.

Mayor Pete Bass said the project started under former Mayor Pat Murphy, carried through David Gronbach’s administration and it was great to finally see the project completed.

Public Works Director Mike Zarba agreed. The department did the bulk of the work for the project, though the construction itself was completed by Rosa Construction.

“It’s a relief and a joy to witness the users who we built it for enjoying it,” he said. “It makes it come to fruition for us.”

Ducusin and Haglund both said they’re happy to be able to do everything in the center, which many of the seniors consider their second home, and won’t have to operate between two venues at once.

“We’re back on our home turf,” Ducusin said.

Barbara Couphos has been coming to the center for four years and can’t wait to experience the center’s parties in the new building or other new events. She said she loves the programs already offered and the sense of community fostered at the center.

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“It’s wonderful and gorgeous,” she said. “It’s a happy place. Every day here is a fun time.”

Valerie Schmidlin, who belongs to the quilting group at the center, said the seniors, staff and volunteers deserve to have such a nice center.

“The renovation is great,” she said. “It’s beautiful. We’re very, very fortunate to have this space.”

Katrina Koerting|Reporter