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City Council Approves Purchase of VFW Center Near Fresh Pond

By Brendan R. Linn, Crimson Staff Writer

In the final meeting of its 2004-2005 session, the Cambridge City Council bid adieu to its lone departing member before sparring over details of a proposed West Cambridge community center.

Three-term councillor David P. Maher—whose father, William, also served on the Council in 1966—was the only member who failed to retain his seat in November municipal elections. Political newcomer Craig Kelley is set to replace Maher at the Council’s first meeting on Jan. 2.

Councillor Timothy J. Toomey Jr. led the Council in thanking Maher for his service and presenting him with a ceremonial plaque and resolution.

“I know this is only a temporary hiatus for David,” Toomey said.

Speaking after the meeting, Maher, also a veteran of the city’s School Committee, said, “Fourteen years in city government is a long time...I’m keeping my options open.”

Following the celebration, councillors considered a plan to purchase the Mount Auburn post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and expand it into a youth and community center.

In a letter to the Council, City Manager Robert W. Healy estimated that the VFW post, at 688 Huron Ave. just south of Fresh Pond, would cost nearly $3 million to purchase. Councillors unanimously approved the proposal, which means that renovations to the building will begin in January.

Those renovations will displace three dance groups, which currently rent the VFW post’s nearly 4,000-square-foot dance hall three times a week. According to Healy, two of the groups have secured temporary dance space in Medford.

But Healy also wrote that to keep the dance floor in the renovated community center would add at least $1.5 million to the cost of renovations, and $250,000 in yearly operating expenses.

“In my opinion, this is not an appropriate expenditure of community funds,” Healy said to councillors, who had heard from more than a dozen members of the dance groups earlier in the meeting.

The Council voted unanimously to defer voting on the fate of the dance floor until its next term begins in January.

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