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Select Board praises changes at Recreation Center | Local News

BENNINGTON — Select Board members this week praised progress toward completion of a $3.5 million addition to the Recreation Center on Gage Street to house childhood programming and services of the local Head Start program.

Board members also were encouraged by an expansion in youth and other programs at the center, despite the COVID-19 epidemic, since the Berkshire Family YMCA began managing the center for the town.

The 13,500-square-foot addition is being funded through grants received by United Counseling Service, which manages the Head Start program. The project, undertaken in cooperation with the town, also includes significant work on the playgrounds and an expansion of the parking areas.

UCS and Rec Center employees provided an update on progress roughly a year after ongoing construction began last fall.

EARLY 2021 COMPLETIONBetsy Rathbun-Gunn, director of the Early Childhood Services division at UCS, said COVID-19 slowed the addition project but not significantly. The project timeline, which had called for an October completion, is now estimated to finish in “mid-winter, in early February,” she said, adding that the new section is expected to be “closed up soon,” with work continuing inside.

“Afterward, it will take a few more weeks to move in [to the addition],” she said.

During the construction phase, the Recreation Center staff and its members have seen shifts in the parking areas, with spaces added on the Coolidge Avenue side; adjustments in the swimming pool schedule and fitness room equipment placement as work progressed.

Beth Wallace, Family and Community Partnership manager with Head Start, described what will become a “multi-use, multi-functional” playground area around the center, including a tricycle path, areas for both pre-schoolers and infants and toddlers, and a reconfigured softball field to replace the one that was displaced by the addition.

Inside, she said, there will be a commercial-level kitchen, and additional features that were added to the original plan include no-touch entrance door activation, hands-free faucets, and easy-to-clean surfaces to reduce exposure to germs and viruses.

An air purification system also will be installed in the addition as a response to COVID-19 protocols developed after the project was designed.

Wallace added that additional federal and private funding to Head Start has allowed several upgrades.

Select Board Chairman Donald Campbell praised UCS and Head Start for the grants and donations “you’ve raked in since you last talked to us” about the project.

The project design also calls 25 additional parking spaces on the site and a lane allowing vehicle to drive past the entrance to drop off passengers. There also will be multi-use community spaces, and the new main entrance will include a lobby and elevator.

COMMUNITY UPDATERathbun-Gunn said that regular community updates on the project and changes in Rec Center programs that might result will resume in December, after having been curtailed because of COVID-19.

A videoconference is scheduled for Dec. 16 at 5:30 p.m., she said, during which officials will respond to questions about the construction, as well as about programming and center operations.


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