SALEM — A surge in membership and limited space and parking prompted selectmen to restrict the number of nonresidents who can visit the Ingram Senior Center.
The restriction took effect yesterday after selectmen voted unanimously Monday in favor of a recommendation by Senior Services director Patti Drelick to cap the number of out-of-town members at 400.
There are 381 nonresidents from approximately 20 communities who attend the center, Drelick said. That’s 14.8 percent of the center’s 2,569 members.
Three hundred registered last year, and 47 signed up last month alone, she said.
“We try not to turn anyone away,” Drelick said.
She announced the news to approximately 60 seniors having lunch and playing bingo at the center yesterday afternoon. A notice posted near the entrance also informed members of the change.
“I know there have been a lot of rumors around here in regard to nonresidents,” Drelick said. “You can only fit so many people into a building, you can only fit so many people in a parking lot. ... There are probably people out there right now, circling for a parking space.”
Drelick said the cap was necessary because of safety concerns and out of fairness to current members, some of whom must be placed on waiting lists for trips and programs.
“We have to say, ‘We’re sorry, we have to put you on a wait list,’” Drelick told members. “That’s frustrating for us as much as it for you.”
The center averages about 300 visitors a day, and is only allowed to have 325 to 350 at one time, Drelick said. There are four employees, three full-time, one part-time.
Of the 381 nonresidents, 82 are from Methuen and 56 are from Windham, both communities that have their own senior centers, Drelick said. She said Ingram offers many programs that other centers do not, especially wellness and fitness activities.