Lymes’ Senior Center Building Committee Asks for $880K Budget Boost, as Town Leaders Hunt for Money

Old Lyme Town Hall


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LYME-OLD LYME — The Lymes’ Senior Center Building Committee will ask Lyme and Old Lyme residents to vote at town meetings in April for an $880,000 additional appropriation for renovations of the senior center, a project that is now seven months behind schedule.

At Wednesday’s committee meeting, Chair Jeri Baker said that approval of the additional funding was essential before the project’s bid expires May 6.

The bids for the project, originally slated at $5.5 million, came in $1.3 million higher than expected – an overage that was later reduced to $880,000. 

Including the added funding, Old Lyme would pay 75% of the project cost, or $4.818 million. Lyme would pay 25%, or $1.606 million. 

Baker said the committee will ask the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen on March 18 for the funding; The request would then go to the Board of Finance on March 19th, and if approved, to a town meeting. The financial request will also go to Lyme Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance, and if approved to a town meeting.. 

According to Baker, the key dates moving forward are:

  • March 25: Old Lyme public information session, location to be determined
  • March 27: Lyme public information session, in the Town Hall Great Room
  • April 15: Old Lyme Town Meeting: vote on $660,000 additional appropriation
  • April 17: Lyme Town Meeting: vote on $220,000 additional appropriation

Steam, heat, grease

The center’s kitchen is currently approved as a “warming kitchen,” and to bring it up to commercial standards will require the certification of a chef and staff, and a variety of approvals from Ledge Light Health District on health, safety and septic approvals. 

“It’s about steam, heat and grease – depending on what the appliance does in that space,” she said. 

She said that a walkthrough on Wednesday with Point One Architects, Newfield Construction, and Dave Roberge, Fire Marshal for Old Lyme, spurred a discussion about the “needs and wishes” for upgrading the center kitchen. 

The focus was on the kitchen cabinets, dishwasher and steamer and whether they needed to be replaced or added to – and the other changes that would flow from those decisions, she said. 

“What does that mean for plumbing and electrical, do you need another concrete pad on the floor, do you need to rework the floor?” Baker asked. “There was a question of whether to put more concrete in one corner to level the floor. And the walls – is it necessary to tile some of the walls for wet wall issues versus just paint?” 

Baker said that in 2020 Ledge Light Health District vetoed cooking classes at the center because it did not have a commercial kitchen. 

But Shoemaker said it made no sense that if a party rents the senior center, they are allowed to cook there, but that the kitchen couldn’t be used in a similar fashion. 

“Why can’t you bake cookies there with the seniors using that stove, since we have the stove? I just do not understand,” Shoemaker said. 

Baker said that cooking and using the stove would represent a change of use and require adding a commercial kitchen, which could cause delays in construction because of needing extra approvals. 

Shoemaker later said she wasn’t comfortable with the idea of a kitchen concept “redesign,” and that the kitchen changes needed to be only an “upgrade.”


As far back as 2021, the committee has discussed fundraising as a tool to offset town costs for the project, including forming a working group for fundraising in early 2024 that included B.J. Bernblum, Alan Sheiness, Rick Goulding and Lyme Selectman John Kiker. 

At Wednesday’s meeting, Sheiness said he had begun a “short list” of potential major donors, an effort that Shoemaker urged him to pause, given conversations she’d had with David Lahm, First Selectman of Lyme, and a significant donor and fundraiser in the town.

“I was approached by David and I thought he and I were heading up fundraising, so there must be a disconnect,” said Shoemaker. “But we talked about looking for corporate, private [donors] … and how we would divide that up as far as the total project… I would appreciate it if you would hold off just so that we could do a Lyme-Old Lyme discussion first, just so that we’re all on the same page, that we’re using the same type of wording, formatting, etc., because I don’t want to be going at it from two different aspects.”

Shoemaker said the next step was to make a plan to write letters to “corporates that we think might be interested in giving to a senior center.” 

Sheiness said that he believed local individual donors, especially those who had given to previous projects in Lyme, will be stronger sources of funding than corporate donors. 

“I’d be thrilled but shocked out of my mind if letters to companies from us amounted to meaningful dollars,” he said. “The people I’m thinking of I know have given five figures and six figures to projects in the town. I’m thinking that those individuals who like to be consulted with privately, one on one … could very well be individuals who write $50,000, $100,000, $250,000 checks.”

Baker said she had done research into corporate donations and grants and had given the list to Kiker and Sheiness a few months ago.

“They’re all different in terms of how to approach them for your grants or donations,” Baker said. 

Shoemaker said that list would be incorporated in her work with Lahm and that they would report back at the next committee meeting. 

Bernblum suggested that members of the working group meet with Shoemaker and Lahm to come up with an overarching plan and to divide up the responsibilities. 

Shoemaker agreed and said that she and Sheiness would formulate how the funds would be applied to each town.

Editor’s note: Old Lyme First Selectman Martha Shoemaker was approached by David Lahm, First Selectman of Lyme, to work on fundraising for the Lymes’ Senior Center — not David Kelsey, Chair of the Old Lyme Board of Finance, as was previously reported. This story has been corrected.