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Sterilite to erect 2 buildings; Town is getting its largest gifts ever.

Byline: Paula J. Owen

TOWNSEND - The town's largest employer and taxpayer, the Sterilite Corp., has added town building construction to its product line and its first project will be completed next month.

The town has been trying to get a new senior center and library for decades, according to Town Administrator Gregory W. Barnes, but has not been successful because of financial constraints. A new building for the town's Highway Department was also needed, he said.

Fundraisers and grant seeking conducted over the years were not enough.

Then, the Sterilite Corp. stepped up to the plate last year, pledging to build two new buildings for the town, buying 44 acres for one of them - at no cost to taxpayers.

The new Highway Department building is on 44 acres off Main Street across from the Sterilite factory. It is expected to be complete next month, he said.

The property will also be used to expand the town's cemetery. Pre-construction work at the site of the old facility is being conducted for the proposed senior center and library building that is projected to be complete by fall 2009, he said.

The projects' costs are said to be in the millions, but Mr. Barnes said the actual cost for the company is "the biggest secret" in town. He described Al Stone, president of Sterilite, as a "Warren-Buffet-type" who does not like to grandstand the company's accomplishments.

"I can tell you it's not cheap," Mr. Barnes said. "They won't even share it with me."

It is the largest gift in the town's history, Mr. Barnes said. The buildings will come fully furnished, he added.

Sterilite is the world's largest independent manufacturer of plastic housewares, according to its Web site.

He explained that because the money for the projects is coming from a private entity and not from town money, the projects are exempt from going out to bid and being built under the state's prevailing wages, as well as allowing for an accelerated construction cycle, he said.

"You are looking at large amounts of money to build these new buildings," he added. "It's an incredible gift. We've examined the plans, and from everything we've seen, these will be top-notch facilities and signature buildings for the town."

At town meeting on Tuesday, voters accepted the 44-acre property, Mr. Barnes said, with the intent to lease the Highway Department building for one year until it is turned over to the town.

David A. Profit, police lieutenant and Council on Aging chairman said he has been an advocate for the town's seniors for years. He said retired Police Chief William E. May inspired his interest in the town's aging population.

"Chief May would always bring it to our attention that many people taken advantage of by criminals was a result of their age - young people and our senior citizens," he said.

The town now leases a 1,200-square-foot space in a shopping plaza on Main Street for its senior programs, he said. It is only one large room with two attached offices and marginal kitchen facilities, he said, and is not adequate to expand COA programs.

"It truly is an overwhelming opportunity for the town to be able to provide a fantastic environment for its seniors and the general population with the library," he said. "It would take 50 years to do what is happening now based on capital planning. There is just no money out there."

Mr. Profit said a feasibility study for a new senior center was completed five years ago, but the project never went into the design phase because no money was available.

The library is in the same boat, according to Carol R. Wright, chairman of the board of library trustees.

"We've been trying to get a library for close to 20 years," she said. "It has not passed at town meetings."

Built in 1929, the library is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, has no meeting or young adult rooms, and there is inadequate space for the children's room and collection. There are only three public computers, she said.

"The new building will have plenty of room and a lot more computers," she explained. "It will open up a whole new world."

Sterilite, which moved to Townsend in 1968, has been in business for 70 years. The company announced the projects last year in celebration of the town's 275th anniversary and its 40th year as a "corporate citizen" of the town, according to a letter from Mr. Stone to the town's citizens. Mr. Barnes said the company represents 5 percent of the town's tax base. The company is just completing the zoning and planning processes for the new library and senior center, he said.

ART: MAP

CUTLINE: 45-acre purchase

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/STACEY ARSENAULT
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 9, 2008
Words:797
Previous Article:Library reduced to 3 days a week; Status likely to result in loss of certification.
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