LTE: Time for city action on senior housing

To the editor,
Watertown senior citizen residence: The time has come! The need is great! Action should be taken!

Before I was Watertown mayor, I attended Watertown City Council meetings. I heard the plans for a new 65-bed senior living residence. There were illustrations of it in the city hall. The council members at that time had invested a great deal of taxpayer money and staff work in preparing the site for this facility in Watertown. A road was closed, two businesses were bought and torn down, and the infrastructure (at the city’s expense) was put in place for the new facility. Watertown senior citizens were especially excited. They would be able to stay in Watertown where many of them had lived for years with their family and friends.

After I became mayor in 2012, I met with the developer and asked how soon the structure would be built. He told me in the spring, April to be exact. When my senior friends asked how soon it would be built, I thought that I could tell them honestly that it would start in April. It did not happen. My many telephone calls to the developer started. He said that they would start construction in the fall and that it was possible to build in the winter. Again, I told people the good news. Nothing happened.

The following spring, I arranged for some of the council members and – I believe – one or two of the Economic Development Authority members to attend a meeting with the investor (and his wife, daughter and son), and the developer. The developer did not attend the meeting.

Over the two years that I was mayor, I called at least 15 times to either the developer or to the investor requesting information about when the senior residence would be built. I was told that there were other problems holding them back. Those problems seemed to have been resolved, but again no action.

Meanwhile, so many of the Watertown senior citizens, who had kept asking me when I was mayor about the future of the senior living residence, moved to other cities’ senior homes or are now deceased.

It is time for the Watertown City Council members to take action. Set a deadline when the building should start. If it does not happen, buy the property site back and sell it to a developer who will build a senior residence facility. The city might have to take legal action to accomplish this transaction.

Charlotte Johnson
Former Watertown mayor