Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mass Gathering Policy: Hudson's Catch-22

Back in 2012, without warning to the other business owners on the block, Joe Fierro of American Glory shut down the 300 block of Warren Street on an early spring Saturday for an auto show. When the event was repeated the next year, the Common Council Legal Committee was motivated to revise the mass gathering permit process. The goal of the revisions was to prevent one business owner from inconveniencing other business owners without there being adequate notice and the opportunity to voice objections.

Last summer, the Council passed a law amending the part of the city code (Chapter 199) that has to do with mass gathering permits. Mayor William Hallenbeck vetoed it. The Council overrode the mayor's veto, and the amendments were enacted as of June 17, 2014.

Even after his veto had been overridden, the mayor continued to agonize about the new requirements for mass gathering permits. Responding to the mayor's concerns, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), chair of the Legal Committee, who drafted the amendments, stressed that the amended law contained the same mayoral discretion that existed before the law was revised. Council president Don Moore pointed to this sentence in the law: "Exceptions to this application process may be made for good cause shown upon petition to the mayor."

It seems that in the intervening year, the mayor has gotten comfortable with his mayoral discretion when it comes to granting mass gathering permits. Yesterday, he granted a mass gathering permit for a block party that will close Warren Street to vehicular traffic between Second and Third streets for six hours--from noon to 6 p.m.--this Saturday, the first day of the last holiday weekend of the summer.


The first three hours of street closure are for set up. The party, which celebrates Savoia owner Jake Walthour's 74th birthday, begins at 3 p.m. The mayor himself will be there to present Walthour with a "Life Time Achievement Award."

The news of the mass gathering permit for this event reportedly caused quite a stir at the Common Council Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee last night. It was the first any of the committee members had heard of it. It also seems that the owners of several businesses on the 200 block of Warren Street were unaware of the plan to shut down their block. The amendments to the mass gathering permit process were made with the goal of preventing businesses from being blindsided by such events. They require that applications be submitted at least 120 days prior to the event and that the public be notified. Chapter 199-7 of the city code states:
If the parade or special event requires a street closure(s), the applicant must cause to be posted in the newspaper of record notice of such application within seven days of submitting an application for a special event or parade to the City Clerk. Said notice shall be published for two consecutive days. . . . Written public comments regarding the special event or parade application may be submitted to the Clerk within 10 days of the first publication of said notice.
Curious to know the history of this mass gathering permit, Gossips went to City Hall this morning to "inspect the application." I discovered that it was submitted on Wednesday, August 12, just 24 days before the event not 120 days. But the law states that exceptions can be made "for good cause," and there was a handwritten note accompanying the application explaining a reason that the mayor had obviously accepted as "good cause." There was also documentation that notice had been duly published in the Register-Star.


The notice appeared for the first time on Saturday, August 15, and would have appeared for the second time on Tuesday, August 18. Comments had to be received by August 25, but the city clerk reported that no comments had been received. One can conclude from this either that no one has a problem with shutting down a block of Warren Street for six hours on Labor Day weekend or that no one saw the notice in the Register-Star.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

For Democrats in the First and Fourth Wards

If you missed "The Primary Show" this morning on WGXC's @Issue, you can hear it online by clicking here. Hosts Debby Mayer and Rob Bujan speak with Democratic primary candidates Michael O'Hara, Nick Haddad, and Rick Rector from the First Ward, and Rich Volo and Alexis Keith from the Fourth Ward. Lauren Scalera (Fourth Ward), who couldn't be present, submitted a written statement.
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What's Happened to Marina Abramovic?

Photo: Chad Weckler
This question has been asked more than a few times in recent weeks. Last week there was even a totally unsubstantiated rumor getting limited circulation that the Rock Solid Church was looking to buy the old Community Theatre. To satisfy your curiosity and allay your fears, Chad Weckler went out to Abramovic's home in Malden Bridge yesterday and recorded an interview with Abramovic. The interview can be heard tomorrow, Thursday, September 3, from 2 to 3 p.m. on Weckler's WGXC radio show The Art of the Hudson Valley. WGXC is at 90.7 FM or online at wgxc.org.
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Playing the Angles

In the First Ward, the Democratic primary on September 10 will decide who represents the ward on the Common Council. The two Democrats who win in the primary will be unopposed in the general election in November. No other party has fielded candidates in the First Ward.

In the Fourth Ward, things are more complicated. No matter what the outcome of the primary, there will be a race in November. Derrick Smart has been endorsed by the Republicans, and Lauren Scalera, who is challenging the two candidates who were endorsed by the HCDC (Hudson City Democratic Committee), is also hoping to get on the ballot as a Republican. Following her father's example, Scalera is trying to get her name on the ballot as many times as possible. She already has the Independence line and made an unsuccessful attempt to secure the Conservative line. Rich Volo has a fallback, too. In addition to being endorsed by the HCDC, he's been endorsed by the Working Families Party. The only person in the Fourth Ward Democratic primary who will be off the ballot in November if she doesn't win in the primary is incumbent Fourth Ward alderman Alexis Keith. Perhaps for this reason, Keith is trying to cover all her bases. 

Her name appears with Rich Volo's on signs provided by the HCDC. Her name also appears with Lauren Scalera's on signs that Rick Scalera was positioning around the Fourth Ward last week.









With the exception of one sign stuck in the ground in front of the newly renovated house at the corner of State and Short streets, all the Keith/Scalera signs appear to be positioned on property owned by the City of Hudson or the Galvan Foundation.
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The Primary Show

For all those who missed hearing @Issue this morning on WGXC, Gossips will be posting the link to the show, called "The Primary Show," as soon as it is archived. In the meantime, here is the statement submitted by Lauren Scalera, candidate for Fourth Ward alderman, who was unable to be a part of the show in person. During the show, the statement was read aloud by host Debby Mayer.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to attend your radio show. Unfortunately, due to my work schedule I am unable to be there in person. Running for 4th ward Alderman is proving to be an exciting, yet challenging endeavor. I hope to meet as many residents of my ward as time allows to hear their concerns and ideas as to how to make our ward and the City as a whole a better community. Much work has been done in Hudson, but it is clear there is still much more to do. Alderman Ohrine Stewart will be missed, but hopefully voters will give me the chance to follow in her footsteps on the council.

This Just In

Gossips just received word that, if you are a resident of the First Ward or the Fourth Ward, you can call in a question to be asked of the candidates running in the September 10 primary election--all of whom, with the exception of Lauren Scalera, who I am told has submitted a statement in lieu of being there, will be on @Issue on WGXC this morning at 10 a.m. 

Questions should be submitted before the show begins, so you have about 40 minutes to call and ask your question and then listen for the answer at 10 o'clock. The phone number at WGXC is (518) 697-7400. WGXC is heard at 90.7 FM or online at wgxc.org.
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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

More Primary Prep: Turn Your Radios On

Sayre's law, named for Wallace Stanley Sayre (1905-1972), a political scientist and professor at Columbia University, states: "In any dispute, the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake." He was talking about academic politics, but it could as well apply to Hudson. This year, in the primary election that takes place in just nine days, on Thursday, September 10, Democrats are vying to be the party's candidates for the two alderman positions in the two wards--the First and the Fourth--with the smallest populations and hence the least powerful votes in the Common Council's weighted vote system.

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., on the WGXC radio show @Issue, Debby Mayer and her co-host Rob Bujan will be speaking with the candidates in the Democratic primary: Rick Rector, Nick Haddad, and Michael O'Hara from the First Ward; and Alexis Keith and Rich Volo from the Fourth Ward. Lauren Scalera, the third person hoping to be one of the Democratic candidates for Fourth Ward alderman, is reportedly unable to be part of the conversation.

WGXC is heard at 90.7 FM or online at wgxc.org.
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Out on the River

It's the first day of September, but summer isn't over yet and neither is the Hudson Sloop Club's sailing program. On three days this week, there are opportunities to go sailing with the Sloop Club, to learn the basics of navigation and sailing or just to experience being out on the river.


Tonight, from 5:30 p.m. until sunset, the Sloop Club is offering a class called Intro to Navigating the Hudson, which teaches the characteristics of the river and how to navigate your boat safely. During the same time, there is the Tuesday Sail by the Hudson-Athens lighthouse, Middle Ground Flats, and Athens, to get a feel for sailing on the Hudson.

On Saturday, September 5, from 4 to 8 p.m., the Sloop Club is offering a four-hour course in Sailing Basics, which will demonstrate how to rig a boat, sail at different angles to the wind, and maneuver and teach basic sailing terminology. There is also a Saturday Sail, from 5:30 p.m. until sunset. 

On Sunday, September 6, from 2 to 7 p.m., the Sloop Club is offering free Community Sails on the Hudson for two hours or less leaving from the waterfront. 

Sailing classes are open to anyone aged 14 or older, and sliding scale pricing is available. Check out the Hudson Sloop Club website for more information about fees and to sign up.
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Monday, August 31, 2015

Attention C-GCC Students Without Cars

Last year, Hudson FORWARD initiated a ride share program to provide transportation for students from Hudson to Columbia-Greene Community College. The program was a success, helping students get to and from classes and make connections with fellow students with cars and other Hudsonians willing to give them a lift to the campus out on Route 23.

The new semester at C-GCC begins next Tuesday, September 8. In preparation, Hudson FORWARD is trying to match up students needing rides with volunteer drivers willing to take them to and from the C-GCC campus. If you are one or the other, click here and fill out the form so that Hudson FORWARD can find you a ride or match you up with students from Hudson who need rides.
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In Defense of the City Website

Ever since the City of Hudson website went online back in 2002, people have been complaining about it. The biggest criticism seems to be that it's not attractive; it doesn't present Hudson in the way we would like others to see us.


There's no argument there. The design is pretty frumpy. The defense is that Digital Towpath, which is the platform used for the City website, has only a limited number of templates to choose from. There are currently 130 municipalities--villages, towns, counties, and one city (Hudson)--that use Digital Towpath, and you can find the links to all of these websites here. Clicking on the links, you will see the similarities, but you will also see that it is possible, even given the limitations, to create a fairly appealing design. The websites for the Village of Canajoharie and Franklin County are evidence of the possibilities.


Another criticism of the website is that it's hard to find things, and admittedly there are challenges. Sometimes things aren't quite where you would expect them to be, but more often than not they're there. You just have to be persistent, and if you are, you can discover wonders! One of the advantages of Digital Towpath is that it has an enormous capacity, and for the past thirteen years, people in City Hall have been digitizing documents and uploading them to the website. 

Among the documents uploaded by the Department of Public Works is a report by Vince Wallace which lists all the Civil War veterans buried in the Grand Army of the Republic section of the cemetery and provides a map with the location of each grave.

Also among the DPW documents is the endlessly fascinating Water Tap Book, which will tell you not only when your house was hooked up to the municipal water supply, but also, if your house is located on an east-west street, what your house number was before the City switched to hundred blocks in 1888-1889.

If you click on "History" in the left column on the homepage, you will find all the previous versions of the city charter, from 1823 to 1949, and one hundred and fifty years of Common Council minutesfrom 1833 to 1983.


In addition, you can find on the website the 2002 Comprehensive Plan, the 2011 Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, the master concept plan for the North Bay Recreation and Natural Area, the tax rolls, and many other documents to help you satisfy your curiosity and while away the hours. 

The website is an extensive and valuable resource for Hudson residents, and all it needs is a facelift, some updating, and a little refinement. Perhaps it's possible with Digital Towpath, as it is with Google Blogger, to change the template and the look of the website without re-creating the whole thing.
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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Not to Be Missed

Seth Rogovoy on the Rogovoy Report comments on the mayor's press conference on Friday: "Mayor at the Bridge: Press Conference or Campaign Event?"

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Scenes from a Fourth Ward Block Party

Rich Volo, who is running for alderman in the Fourth Ward, held a block party at the northern end of the linear park this afternoon, and Gossips was there, along with many folks from the neighborhood and several Democratic candidates, including Ken Golden who is running for Columbia County district attorney. 


At right: Candidates Michael O'Hara (First Ward alderman) and Golden


Mayoral candidate Tiffany Martin Hamilton
Candidates Rick Rector (First Ward alderman) and Tom DePietro (Common Council president)

Gossips, Joey, and Volo

Seen Just Now on State Street



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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sidewalks, Crosswalks/City, County

At the Common Council Police Committee meeting last Monday, it was agreed that a stop sign--or maybe two--was needed at West Court and Allen streets. Always a treacherous corner because of the way drivers tend not to stay on their side of the roadway when negotiating the turn from West Court onto Allen or from Allen onto West Court, it has become even more hazardous since the work on the courthouse was completed and the building reopened last November.

Before the restoration and expansion of the courthouse, there was a sidewalk that went along the south side of Allen Street and met up with the sidewalk on the east side of West Court Street. When the parking lot was resurfaced, after the construction at the courthouse was complete, the sidewalk was not replaced. Instead the asphalt of the parking lot was continued out into the street, and crosswalk bars were painted where the sidewalk should be.


In the past, when there was a proper sidewalk in place, the occasional befuddled tourist would miss the turn and end up in the parking lot, but now, with nothing but a crosswalk painted on continuous asphalt, only those familiar with Hudson know that West Court Street doesn't just keep going. Even people working at the courthouse, who should know better, now seem emboldened to drive straight into the parking lot with little or no regard for cars approaching on Allen Street.

Instead of assuming this is our problem to solve and installing stop signs, the City of Hudson should insist that the county reinstate the sidewalk and make it clear that the entrance to the parking lot is the entrance to a parking lot and not the continuation of the street. At his press conference on Friday, Mayor Hallenbeck spoke of how the City of Hudson had for years maintained the state boat launch, implying that the state owed us and should therefore provide financial assistance in replacing the Ferry Street Bridge. By the same token, since the City gave Columbia County a 70 percent discount on the building permit fee for the courthouse, reducing the fee from $38,728 to $12,000, why doesn't city government take the position that the county owes us and should therefore help solve this problem, which is after all of their creation?
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Proposed Garage Revision in Limbo

Unlike the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, which meet only once a month, the Historic Preservation Commission meets twice a month--on the second Friday and the fourth Friday. At the first meeting of the month, the HPC reviews applications for certificates of appropriateness and directs the city attorney, who serves as counsel to the HPC, to draft the document granting or denying a certificate of appropriateness. The document is not boilerplate; it is meant to state with some specificity why a given project does or does not meet the requirements set forth in Hudson's preservation law. At the second meeting of the month, with the document before them stating the reasons for granting or denying a certificate of appropriateness, the HPC makes its final and official vote. 


On August 15, with only five of the seven members present, the HPC voted on granting a certificate of appropriateness to the proposal to increase the height of the garage at 829 Warren Street to 19 feet. Three members were in favor (Peggy Polenberg, Phil Forman, Miranda Barry); two were opposed (David Voorhees and Rick Rector). Since four affirmative votes (the majority of the full commission) are needed to grant a certificate of appropriateness, the project was denied approval.

Yesterday, when it came time to vote on the language of the document denying the certificate of appropriateness, there were only four members present: Polenberg, Voorhees, Rector, and Forman. For the denial to be official, all four of them needed to vote in the affirmative. Polenberg did not. Rector, who chairs the HPC, indicated he would need to consult with counsel to determine what happens next.
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Friday, August 28, 2015

At the Barricades

Mayor William Hallenbeck held a press conference today at the barricade that prevents vehicles from crossing the Ferry Street Bridge. In the announcement that went out yesterday, reference was made to "federal, state, and local government officials," but no one representing Hudson at the federal level was present, and at the state level, only Jeff Cleary, director of government relations for State Senator Kathy Marchione, was there.

Left to right: Cleary, Grattan, Hallenbeck, and aldermen Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), Henry Hadded (Third Ward), Rick Rector (First Ward)
After recounting how he had shut down the bridge in the interest of public safety and sharing "a little history" of the 110-year-old bridge, the mayor launched into a detailed account of the bridge's current condition. "Rehabilitation is not a feasible alternative," he concluded. "Repairing the bridge is not an option." He called for "a united effort to replace the bridge." Stressing the urgency of replacing the bridge by calling Hudson and its waterfront "the most sought after location," the mayor announced that John "Duke" Duchessi and Bill Roehr, of TGW Consultants, would "lead the charge."


In his comments, Pat Grattan, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, praised Hallenbeck for his "swift action in closing this very dangerous bridge." He went on to say, "I've seen how costly bridges are," and expressed the opinion that a municipality like Hudson should not have to bear the expense alone. Common Council president Don Moore, in his comments, set the cost of a new bridge at $2.5 million.
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The Word on the Crosswalks

The painting of the crosswalks was a topic of discussion at Wednesday night's Public Works Committee meeting, although it was not part of DPW superintendent Rob Perry's report. It was brought up by audience members.

Perry's explanation for the diagonal lines in the crosswalks--or zebras, as they are called--not being repainted was that the hot paint machine used to apply the lines had broken down, and rather than repair the antiquated machine, he was looking to lease a similar machine for the duration of the season. He also explained that temperature conditions had to be just right for the paint to be applied successfully. 

He went on to say that he wanted to migrate to a newer technique that involves sheets applied to the pavement with heat. The crosswalks at Park Place and Warren Street were done using this method two years ago and are proving to be more durable and long lasting than those done with a hot paint machine. But since the City has a significant amount of paint already purchased for the hot paint machine, Perry wants to use that up before switching to the new method.

An audience member challenged Perry's statement that the zebras couldn't be painted because of equipment failure. He said he witnessed DPW workers completing only the two parallel lines--the transverse lines--and going away. "This town needs as much safety for pedestrians as possible if it is to be a walkable city," he asserted and went on to question why all the markings for parking spaces had been done before the crosswalks had been painted.

Another audience member, Leo Carlin complained that the recently added signs marking the crosswalks at Union and Fourth streets "don't have any effect at all."

Gossips, remembering crosswalks in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, that were painted solid green between the two parallel white lines, asked if any studies had been done to determine what crosswalk patterns were most effective. Perry said there was a lot of research out there, but the issue for Hudson was resources. He noted that two years ago a number of new crosswalks were created with grants through the Kids in Motion program coordinated by Kari Rieser, but there was no money to sustain them. According to Perry, painting crosswalks, stop bars, and parking spaces costs from $10,000 to $15,000 a year.

Curious to learn about the relative effectiveness of crosswalk patterns, Gossips searched the Internet and found a white paper on the subject prepared in 2013 for the Federal Highway Administration: "An Overview and Recommendations of High-Visibility Crosswalk Marking Styles." According to this study, colored or textured pavement "may lead to a false sense of security" for pedestrians, "zebras," which is what Hudson has had in the past, are considered effective, but "transverse lines," which, because of equipment failure, is what we've got now, are, according to this study, "particularly difficult for motorists to see."

An interesting aside from the study is this: "In the Netherlands, motorists are supposed to stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the road when a zebra crossing is present. If a zebra crossing is not present, vehicles do not have to yield the right-of-way." It seems in Hudson drivers who have very likely never driven in the Netherlands are following those rules and totally ignoring crosswalks now that the diagonal zebra stripes are missing.

On the topic of crosswalks, here's another discovery. Not long ago, during a discussion of crosswalks at a Council meeting, the crosswalks on Main Street in Great Barrington, which is also U.S. Route 7, were mentioned as examples of the way things should be. These crosswalks, many of which are in the middle of a block, are scrupulously observed by drivers. Why, it was asked, can't the same to true for crosswalks in Hudson?

This question was answered by an alderman, who authoritatively declared that the laws were different in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts a pedestrian only had to appear to be about to enter the crosswalk in order to have the right of way, whereas in New York a pedestrian actually had to be in the crosswalk for a vehicle to be required to stop. 

Here's what appears in Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 89, Section 11:
When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be so to yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk marked in accordance with standards established by the department of highways if the pedestrian approaches from the opposite half of the traveled part of the way to within 10 feet of that half of the traveled part of the way on which said vehicle is traveling.
No driver of a vehicle shall pass any other vehicle which has stopped at a marked crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross, nor shall any such operator enter a marked crosswalk while a pedestrian is crossing or until there is sufficient space beyond the crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle he is operating, notwithstanding that a traffic control signal may indicate that vehicles may proceed.
Whoever violates any provision of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $200.
Here's the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law, Article 27, on the same subject:
1151. Pedestrians' right of way in crosswalks. (a) When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk on the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, except that any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overpass has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles.
(b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.
(c) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
There isn't much difference between these two laws except in Massachusetts drivers who don't yield the right of way to pedestrians are subject to a $200 fine and in New York it seems necessary to include in the law what should be commonsense: "No pedestrian . . . shall walk or run into the path of a vehicle."

One may conclude from all this that, if there were sufficient money in the City budget and the zebra crosswalks could be properly maintained, the physical crosswalks in Hudson would be about as good as it gets, but as good as it gets falls short of the goal. When, at Wednesday's Public Works Committee meeting Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) opined that the problem of drivers ignoring crosswalks was "not a DPW issue but a police issue," Council president Don Moore mused, "There must be a way--a campaign--that can make this a pedestrian friendly city." Gossips agrees. There must be a way.
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Problem Solved

An objection voiced by some aldermen when asked to approve the mayor's resolution to give $100,000 to the Galvan Initiatives Foundation for the "fit-up" of the senior center was that the money was needed for staff and programming, but the mayor has fixed that, "at low or no cost to the city." Working with Tyrone Hedgepeth, recreation supervisor at the Youth Center, aldermen Alexis Keith (Fourth Ward) and Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) of the Young & Aging Committee, and Doris Moore, commissioner of aging, the mayor has come up with a schedule that will "keep the center open and running for 37.5 hours a week." He announced this in a press release issued on Wednesday. The details of the plan are reported by John Mason in today's Register-Star: "Getting with the program--City looks at new activities for seniors." 

Here's the schedule for Monday.
8 to 9 a.m.  Open Recreational (playing cards, reading, drawing, knitting, crochet, etc.)
9 to 10 a.m.  Health & Beauty/cooking
10:30 a.m. to noon  Aerobics
Noon to 12:30 p.m.  Lunch (Thanks to Salvation Army)
12:30 to 1:30 p.m.  Book Club (Also with new Library when open)
1:30 to 4 p.m.  Open Recreational
The schedule for the rest of the week can be found in Mason's article.

According to the mayor, the senior program now offered at the Youth Center serves "about 40 people," but "the new center will most likely bring more seniors to the site."
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