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Dedham to retain Senior Center Site Committee

Dedham’s Special Town Meeting, called to rescind a vote to create a Senior Center Site Committee, voted Monday to uphold it after two hours of sometimes heated debate.

Residents decided to keep the Senior Center Site Committee on a vote of 119-95, a wider margin than the November 108-103 vote that established the committee.

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Another measure, a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, was approved on voice vote.

Carmen Dello Iacono, chairman of the site committee as well as the Board of Selectmen, said the committee had just begun to get into the meat of the issue, and would complete its work by the 2014 deadline set in November.

“It’s a mixed group, but I believe that we’re starting to jell,” Dello Iacono said following the vote.

The site committee was created in response to a proposed senior center at the Endicott Estate that advocates believed could be funded entirely with private money. Monday’s article to rescind November’s vote included language that directed selectmen to build the center on the Endicott Estate.

At Monday’s meeting, the town’s lawyer, Joyce Frank, said language would not be binding under state law, but would be politically significant in expressing the will of the town.

Leanne Jasset, chairwoman of the Council on Aging and an advocate for the Endicott plan, said she was disappointed with the vote.

“It’s a sad day for Dedham seniors,” Jasset said. “Everyone knows that the best place and perfect place is at the Endicott Estate. It’s unfortunate those members of the Town Meeting body didn’t see that as well.”

Monday’s meeting was called at the behest of more than 200 registered voters who petitioned for the article regarding the senior center committee.

At the meeting, Precinct 4 member Ann Mercer questioned why a previous Town Meeting vote should be overturned and why the town needed to fund a Special Town Meeting.

Tensions ran high, and Moderator Daniel Driscoll had to restore order multiple times, at one point shouting down boos and hisses during a speech by Precinct 4 member Susan Fay. Fay, who lives across from the Endicott Estate, asked members to imagine that a hockey rink was being built in a park near them, comparing that to the Endicott Estate senior center plan.

However, a new option arose last month, when Dello Iacono floated a tentative plan to create an all-purpose municipal facility at a privately owned building at 100 Rustcraft Road.

The building, which houses the Red Cross and has more than 200,000 square feet of vacant space, could serve as home for such things as the Police Department, town offices, a senior center, and Public Works Department, Dello Iacono said last month.

In the meantime, the Senior Center Site Committee has determined that the best size for a center in Dedham would be 16,000 square feet. The proposal at the Endicott Estate was for 8,600 square feet.

Dello Iacono said a majority of the committee supported that figure. Following the meeting, Jasset said she thought that number was agreed upon to exclude the Endicott plan.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at eisen.globe@gmail.com.

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