EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva is temporarily moving the city’s recreation center programs into the senior center, despite seniors’ concerns, Call 12 for Action has learned.
DaSilva vowed services for seniors will not be impacted by the move.
The new mayor said it doesn’t make sense for the city to continue using the East Bay Community Action Program’s building on Bullocks Point Avenue for youth recreation programs.
According to figures provided to Eyewitness News, use of the building’s utilities alone cost the city more than $64,000 in 2018.
“We’re investing a lot of money in this subpar facility,” DaSilva said. “In my opinion, we can do better.”
The rec center’s temporary move into the senior center will happen as soon as equipment can be moved, according to DaSilva.
“The whole goal is to allow the seniors to continue to use their facility and have the kids have a much cleaner and a much more efficient, centrally located facility,” he explained.
Ken Goucher has been a member and a volunteer at the senior center for about 15 years.
“This is by far the best thing to ever happen to the city of East Providence,” Goucher said.
But the 80-year-old is worried about sharing space with youth.
“I’m just afraid that everything is going to change for our seniors,” he said. “Do we get pushed out the door?”
Goucher said more than 200 members of the senior center have signed a petition calling on the mayor to keep the facility and its programs just the way they are.
The mayor is planning to meet with members of the senior center on Friday to discuss the issue.
“This is a short-term move but it’s going to have an immense impact, positive impact, on everybody,” DaSilva said.
Ultimately, the mayor said he wants the city to build a new recreation center.
“We’re trying to find the funds or the means to build a small rec center with an actual basketball court that the seniors and the children can make use of,” DaSilva said. “I’d like to see if I can build it somewhere on that space at the senior center and create a recreational complex, so you have the seniors and the kids and everybody in the community coming to one location.”
“I hope to have this accomplished within two years,” he added. “We’re not trying to make an elaborate rec center. I’m not looking for a $5 to $6 million rec center. I’m looking for something less than $2 million, and I think we can leverage some funding to make that happen.”
DaSilva said East Providence voters have twice approved bond referendums for a new recreation center. Money was never borrowed for the project.