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Westminster Senior Center gets help from inmate community program

Kimberly Petalas

News Staff Writer



Sheriff Lew Evangelidis checks on the progress of work being done by county  inmates at the new Westminster Senior Center on Thursday. Above, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, Officer Jason Firmin, Co-chairman of the Senior Center Building Committee Peter Normandin, Council on Aging Director Sue Fisher, Senior Center Building Committee member Neysa Miller.


WESTMINSTER — Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis stopped into the new Westminster Senior Center to check in on the Inmate Community Service Program on Thursday.

“I was the state rep. here for eight years,” said  Sheriff Evangelidis. “I know that it’s been a dream for the community to get this Senior Center.”

Six inmates have been working to paint the walls of the senior center since Monday and will continue their efforts into next week.

“We’re saving about $18,000 by not having to contract a paint crew,” said Senior Center Building Committee Co-Chairman Peter Normandin.

“Aubuchon generously donated all of the paint we are using for the project. They also sent a color expert to help us color coordinate all of the rooms.”

The Inmate Community Service Program has tripled in size since Sheriff Evangelidis took office. He said the program has been very beneficial to both the places receiving the help, and  the working participants.

“These are the best inmates we have. They are nonviolent offenders,” said the sheriff. “The community benefits by saving money on projects, and the inmates benefit because it gives them an opportunity to acquire skills and turn their lives around. The inmates in this program have proven to be the least likely to become repeat offenders.”

The only cost to the community is supplies and lunch for the workers.

The Westminster Senior Center project, which is well underway, is expected to be completed before Christmas. Committee member Neysa Miller said she has been waiting for this since 2005.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” said Ms. Miller. “It originally started as plans for just the senior housing, which will still happen after this is complete. We were told we needed to invest more in our seniors before we could receive funding for the housing, so that’s how the senior center started.”

She said that students from Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School will be doing all of the wood and cabinet work, in addition to the inmates doing all of the painting.

The town purchased the land for $360,000 and donated it to the Senior Center in 2005 as part of an Annual Town Meeting article.

In 2011, voters approved $250,000 for the design of the building, and in January 2013, the $2.5 million budget for the project was backed by voters as a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion.

The project’s budget includes a $189,000 contract with architectural firm Reinhardt Associates — which includes a $64,000 extension given by the Board of Selectmen in April 2013 — and a $50,000 contract for Suresh Bhatia of Atlantic Construction and Management to oversee the construction.

The  7,400-square-foot building sits on about 12 acres of land and will include an art room, game room, lounge, kitchen, outdoor patio and grill space, and a multipurpose room.

“So many people have volunteered their time or money to this project,” said Mr. Normandin. “Everyone is so appreciative of our seniors and all seem to want to help. That’s just the spirit of Westminster.”