New COA Fails Again

By: Tim Wood

Voters in the small gym cast ballots for a new council on aging facility. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – The third time wasn’t the charm for a new council on aging building at 1610 Main St.

While an $11 million proposal to build a new center for active living at the site received a majority of votes at Monday’s special town meeting, it once again failed to meet the two-thirds threshold required to pass, falling 105 votes short.

Controversy surrounded the end of the meeting when it was discovered, after the session had adjourned, that not all votes had been counted. The initial count, as declared by Moderator William Litchfield, was 690-491. When the final numbers were added up, the vote was 811-564, still shy of the 916 votes needed to meet the two-thirds threshold.

Votes on a new COA at the same location previously failed at the 2021 annual town meeting and again at this past May’s annual session, where it lost by a single vote.

The 1,395 voters who registered at the meeting at the Monomoy Regional Middle School was the highest turnout in memory. It outdistanced the approximately 1,200 voters who attended the town meeting when school regionalization was voted and last May’s session, which attracted about 900 residents.

After more than a decade of discussion, it’s unclear where the concept of a new COA facility goes now. The select board was scheduled to discuss Monday’s session at their meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Discussion of the proposal lasted less than an hour and was preceded by confusion as the volume of voters required that three separate rooms be used — the main gym, the auditorium and the small gym. Although the town had purchased and rented additional electronic clickers, those also ran out and yellow voter cards had to be distributed to those in the small gym.

There were few new arguments raised either by supporters or opponents to the project. 

“There are other options for the council on aging, regardless of how many times we’ve heard that there are not,” said opponent Gloria Freeman.

Michael Barry, president of the Friends of the Council On Aging, said the project is affordable, not too large and has been “thoroughly studied.”

“The quality of life for all of our residents will be improved” by approving the project, he said.

Proposals included on the warrant that would have set in motion plans to convert the current council on aging facility at 193 Stony Hill Rd. into affordable housing were contingent on approval of the 1610 Main St. project, and therefore were not acted upon.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.