LYNN — The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to accept a donation of a shuttle bus from Cataldo Ambulance Service, Inc. that will transport senior citizens to and from the city’s anticipated senior center.
The bus can fit up to 12 people and will be utilized for various activities, such as providing transportation for seniors to attend local events, activities, medical appointments, retail needs and out-of-town events planned by the senior center.
Christopher Gomez-Farewell, Lynn’s director of elder services, said the lack of handicap-accessible vans has been a continuous obstacle in getting seniors around the city.
He also said that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased isolation among seniors, leaving them unable to make use of many utilities or services that help minimize the negative physical or social effects of senior living.
“Due to the chip shortage and the pandemic, handicap-accessible buses and vans have been extremely hard to come by,” said Gomez-Farewell. “Everywhere we inquired about these buses, there would be a year-and-a-half wait, so this donation will help a great deal with transportation access for Lynn’s seniors who wish to attend the senior center.”
Gomez-Farewell held a conversation with Cataldo Vice President Dennis Cataldo about senior accessibility, which led to the idea of donating the bus to the city. According to Gomez-Farewell, the original plan was to donate two vans that would fit up to six people each. A larger bus was eventually decided upon because it would fit the same amount of people but fewer drivers would be needed, making it more cost effective, he said.
Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis praised Gomez-Farewell for his ongoing support for seniors in Lynn and Cataldo for the donation of the vans at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the seniors to have the bus donated,” Chakoutis said. “I am looking forward to the opening of the senior center and seeing all of Chris’s plans that he has to bring.”
Mayor Jared Nicholson also thanked Cataldo for the donation, and said it will help seniors become more connected with the community through events and gatherings at the proposed senior center.
The city’s Council on Aging has been looking at and studying potential sites to house the senior center all throughout 2021.
One potential site for a center is the Element Care building at 37 Friend St. The City Council is likely to enact eminent domain — the government power to take private property for public use — to take the building.
Gomez-Farewell spoke in favor of using the Element Care building as a site for a senior center during a City Council meeting on Feb. 9.
“Every major city has a senior center and we haven’t had one in years,” he said. “We think it’s time we do right by our seniors.”
A 30-day notice of intent was drafted by the law department on Feb. 22 to notify the owners of the building about the proposed taking.