Selectmen Look At Options For Housing For Disabled

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Housing and homelessness , Disability access

The former fire station on Bank Street. FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — Selectmen are weighing the use of the former fire station property on Bank Street for a four-bedroom home for disabled individuals. Jeff Locantore, who has cerebral palsy and two different types of seizure disorders, made a presentation to the board last week on the reuse of the property.

Locantore, 35, said he and Jonathon O’Callaghan, 36, who has cognitive and physical disabilities, are working to obtain housing for adults who are disabled. They have established Adult Shared Living of Harwich, Inc., and are filing for nonprofit status to build affordable housing for handicapped and low-income individuals 22 years of age and older on Cape Cod.

Locantore, who has lived in Harwich since 1990 and is a graduate of the business management program at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, became interested in the former fire station as selectmen weighed options for the property. The old fire station was most recently used as the harbor department maintenance facility but now sits empty.

Presently, Locantore is a resident of Pine Oaks Village, a senior affordable housing development in Harwich, but said he would like to be living with adults around his age. The plan is to build a four-bedroom, four-and-a-half bathroom facility geared toward the needs of disabled residents. Locantore said a prefabricated structure could be built or potentially convert the existing former fire station building. The plan would be to do so in several stages.

The mission of his group, Locantore said, is to obtain housing for adults who are disabled but can live independently and would not otherwise be able to afford a place of their own on Cape Cod. It would provide an opportunity for individuals to live in shared housing with adults their own age who share the same interests, he said. Disabled residents are productive members of the community, Locantore said. He has volunteered in many departments since his graduation in 2004, providing photographic services for the fire department and additional services at the council on aging.

Locantore said he enjoys cooking, boating, kayaking, swimming, golfing, “but the most favorite thing is working on housing for disabled adults and that is why I would really like to see a program like this serve the community of Harwich.”

Town Administrator Joseph Powers said he talks with Locantore on a regular basis since he heard of the town’s plans to do something with the property. Powers said there would need to be additional actions by selectmen and town meeting for use of the property.

Locantore has had the idea for many years and has discussed it with him, said Selectman Michael MacAskill. He asked where the town is with requests for proposals for use of the property, and Powers said he has just received information from the engineering department relating to additional wetland designation there. Powers said he was not sure what the impact will be on the RFP, and added that the Harwich Conservation Trust is looking for additional trail systems and parking there.

There have also been discussions about locating three homes on the property, which includes two acres of land. MacAskill said there has also been an interest expressed by the town’s fire association in rehabilitating the former station.

“Jeff, it’s a great plan, great idea and it would be great for Harwich to jump in on this,” MacAskill said. But he also suggested there might be other locations for such a facility. The affordable housing trust has provided town land for projects, he said. MacAskill also mentioned the Albro House, to the west side of town hall, noting here is only one town office in the building. The town is paying a lot of expense for just that one office, he said. The town receives rent from two additional entities in the Albro House, Mid-Cape Church Homes, Inc. and a private therapist. The town’s youth counselor’s office is also located there.

“There are other properties out there that would be better,” concurred Locantore.

“It was a great presentation and there certainly is a need and it’s something we should consider,” Selectman Stephen Ford said of the proposal.

The selectmen agreed to conduct more research and continue this discussion moving forward.