AUBURN, Mass. – It’s looking less likely for an outside ice skating rink at Pakachoag Village after the Auburn Housing Authority didn’t vote on the issue Wednesday.
The housing authority, which owns the land next to the elderly housing units, adjourned after a two-minute meeting in front of Auburn town officials and residents, telling the interested parties that the state told them not to vote on the issue -- which contradicts what the state told The Daily Voice after the meeting.
“We’ve enlisted the advice of the Department of Housing and Community Development to help us move forward on the issue at hand, and the department has advised that the Auburn Housing Authority should not vote on the proposed ice skating rink,” said Housing Authority Chair Betty Bacinskas. “Because this parcel was purchased with state bond money, only the Department of Housing and Community Development can grant permission for use of this land.”
But Matthew Sheaff, director of communications for the state department, said otherwise in a phone interview after the meeting.
“No one from the state advised them to not take a vote,” Sheaff said. “The skating rink is clearly a local issue, and that’s their business whether they want to approve it or not.”
In a Dec. 11 email from the Department of Housing and Community Development to Lori Brennan, executive director of the Auburn Housing Authority, the state department wrote, “As we discussed, it is the Board’s decision about whether or not they want to encourage the town to build a temporary ice skating rink on Auburn Housing Authority state property.”
Last week, the housing authority members expressed concerns over giving approval for the project. They said that safety could be compromised for the elderly residents at a rink between the senior housing and Senior Center.
Members decided to take a week to think it over before voting on it, and they surveyed the residents of Pakachoag Village to see if they’d be OK with an ice skating rink adjacent to their homes. Lori Brennan, executive director of the housing authority, said that 20 residents did not want a skating rink, 11 wanted it built and four were indifferent.
On the other hand, Wayne Page, chairman of the Council on Aging, had favorable results from a survey he took of senior citizens at the Senior Center. There were 59 yes votes, seven no votes and seven were indifferent.
“I’m very disappointed that no vote was taken by the board,” Page said. “We had overwhelming support at the Senior Center to put it there. Hopefully we do get a viable spot for children and parents and grandparents because a skating rink would be great for the community.
“The town is working to try to get this approved, making any concessions they wanted to make,” Page added. “It’s a stumbling block, but I think the town will work something out.”
Bill Coyle, Department of Public Works director, said he will meet with Town Manager Julie Jacobson and discuss the options for a skating rink.
“I’m not sure what the options are, but we’ll see what direction to head in,” Coyle said. “Contacting the state is on the table, and I’ll bring that back to her that this was the position the Auburn Housing Authority took, and let her decide if she wants to pursue that avenue or look at other options.”