SALEM — Any senior from out of town who wants to become a member of the Russell and Robert Ingram Senior Center will have to line up quickly.
Monday night, selectmen supported a proposal brought forth by Senior Services Director Patti Drelick to limit the number of nonresident members at the senior center to 400.
As of Monday evening, there were 381 nonresident senior center members. Salem residents can join the senior center for free, while nonresidents pay a $35 fee.
As the popularity of the senior center has grown, Drelick said there have been occasional space issues in the parking lot as well as the building itself.
“We previously discussed this in August, and we feel capping the number at 400 will accommodate all of those who are with us now,” said Drelick. “Our goal is to welcome more nonresidents on a waiting list on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Drelick agreed with the suggestion of several selectmen that first priority on the nonresident waiting list be given to former Salem residents.
“I think someone who has lived or owned property in Salem for a great amount of time should get some priority,” said Selectman Stephen Campbell. “Their taxes went to help pay for and maintain the building.”
Drelick said there is no cap on Salem residents, and that no one who is currently a member of the senior center will be turned away.
There has been a dramatic increase in membership over the past three years, according to Drelick, with nonresident membership rising more steadily than that of residents.
Overall, about 18 percent of the senior center members are nonresidents, but over the past three years, Drelick said about one-third of the new members have been nonresidents. She also noted that since the issue of the nonresident cap came up in August, 60 nonresidents have applied for membership.
“That is an intriguing amount of nonresidents who come to the senior center, and it is a credit to the work you and the Council on Aging have done,” said Selectman Michael Lyons.
The cap on nonresident members at the senior center was unanimously approved by selectmen and went into effect on Tuesday.email@example.com