With annual town meetings around the corner, the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living is hoping to gather support for a new building which it hopes will better serve the Island’s aging population.

Voters in all six towns will be asked whether to support a $1.6 million bond, to be taken out by Dukes County, for the purchase of the former Vineyard Nursing Association building in Vineyard Haven, which closed last year.

About 35 people, mostly seniors, attended an all-Island selectmen’s meeting Wednesday evening at the Tisbury Senior Center to learn about the purchase and air concerns. County manager Martina Thornton outlined a plan for buying and renovating the building. She also announced that the Edgartown National Bank, which took over the VNA property, has offered it to the county for $1.4 million. The property was appraised last year at $1.375 million.

Despite broad support for the center itself, town officials and others have cited concerns over the cost and suitability of the former VNA building at 29 Breakdown Lane. Finance committees in three towns — Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury — have voted not to recommend the purchase on their annual town meeting warrants.

Center for Living board member June Manning said the board was mostly in favor of the purchase, but she was among those who have questioned the cost of the building and the timing of the articles.

“It’s rather scary for all of the towns to look at this $1.6 million purchase when everyone is going to be flooded with requests for money this year,” she said. Another Islandwide article asks for $3.9 million for a new school administration building.

The Center for Living began in 1973 as the Island Council on Aging; its funding comes from the town councils on aging, client fees and donations. The supportive day program, which cares for people with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions associated with aging, has been operating for many years out of senior centers in Tisbury and Edgartown.

The Center for Living has made several attempts over the last seven years to buy or build a new center, without success.

“We have come to the end of the line,” director Leslie Clapp told the Gazette this week.

An article on the town meeting warrants will ask whether to approve the debt, authorized by Dukes County, to pay for the purchase and renovation of a building for health and human services. Each town would contribute using a formula based on population and property valuations. A two-thirds majority vote in each town would be required for the article to pass.

In some towns, a second article will ask whether to approve the first bond payment and enter into an inter-municipal agreement with the county to provide elder services on the Island. Some towns have opted to include that as a line item in their annual budgets instead of as a separate article.

Oak Bluffs is holding off on voting at all on the first bond payment, since it lacks the required funds. If the bonding article passes, the town could take up the second article at a special town meeting this year, Ms. Thornton said.

In drawing up an agreement with the Edgartown bank, Ms. Thornton hopes to hold the door open for the purchase until Dec. 31. But she added Wednesday that the bank already has kept the building off the market for close to a year. “It’s really their call,” she said. If the county does not purchase the building, she said the bank would likely keep it as an operations center.

The $1.6 million bond would cover several required improvements to the building, including the addition of a handicapped bathroom and other interior work. Ms. Thornton said those costs would total around $100,000.

The building is larger than needed, but the center hopes to be able to expand services in the future. The county would likely rent out the additional space for other programs, and revenues would help offset maintenance costs, Ms. Thornton said.

A bigger location would lead to more staff and increased operating budgets for the center, said Ms. Clapp. The operating budget this fiscal year was $356,945, up slightly from last year. Town contributions totaled about $254,000.

Underlying the center’s desire to expand is a coming wave of people over 65 who will need daily support. The Island’s senior population is expected to more than double by 2030, with 55 per cent of the total population expected to be caregivers. Alzheimer’s cases alone have doubled in the last five years, Ms. Clapp said, and will continue to increase in the future.

Meanwhile, the supportive day program capacity has remained at 18 clients per day. The 7,500-square-foot VNA building is expected to increase the capacity to 25. The center hopes that having one location would also help streamline the program and lower the stress on clients and staff. Some clients tend to wander off, she said, and none of the exits at the senior centers are secure.

Bruce Doten, chairman of the Tisbury senior center, called the purchase “a no brainer.”

Several who attended the meeting this week also spoke in support of the purchase. Susan Murphy, who recently joined the Chilmark finance committee, said she has observed a general denial about Alzheimer’s disease. “It’s hard to imagine the impact,” she said. When she began looking for day programs for her husband, who is 87, she was discouraged by pictures of elders just sitting around. But she said the supportive day program has countered the sense of “overwhelming isolation.”

She argued that the town finance committees had made their decisions following 20-minute presentations at busy meetings, and were likely lacking the full picture. “It was a little astounding to me that so much hinged on such a small amount of time,” she said. “And how little background material even came to the presentation.”

The Chilmark finance committee voted 6-0 with one abstention to recommend the article. The Edgartown finance committee also voted to recommend the article. Aquinnah’s town meeting is not until May.

No one at the meeting spoke out against the purchase, although Tisbury finance committee member Tom Keller stressed the need for a longer-term plan. He added that a common fear was that the Center for Living would meet the same fate as the VNA, which folded abruptly last year. “I think that’s the hesitation,” he said. “Nobody is saying it’s a bad idea.”

Oak Bluffs selectman Gail Barmakian agreed that support for the center was not the issue. “It’s the money thing,” she said. “Every interest group is competing for money.” She said the lack of support from finance committees regarding Islandwide requests was often an indicator of whether an article would pass at town meetings.

Ms. Thornton said if the town meeting articles fail, the focus might shift to building a structure from scratch. “I’m afraid that there are not that many buildings like this on this Island to begin with, and to have one available for a reasonable price, it doesn’t come around all that often,” she said. She said a brand new building would likely be smaller and more expensive.

Tisbury selectman and county commissioner Tristan Israel echoed those concerns. “We are either going to agree we need to do this now, or we are going to have to come up with a plan B,” he said. “And I don’t know what that plan B is.”