Oregon is working to cut costs of building a new senior center, estimated last year to cost $5.3 million.
The Area Office on Aging has committed $1 million when plans are finalized, Mayor Marge Brown said at a council meeting March 23.
Administrator Ken Filipiak is working to cut costs “so its halfway reasonable,” said Brown.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” she said.
The mayor was responding to questions from Doris Levy, who has been fighting for a new center for the last several years.
“We weren’t even in the budget this year,” said Levy. “They say they’re cutting the price. How are we coming along with that? We thought it was going to be done by `09.”
Levy was frustrated that council had just purchased a 15-acre parcel off Pickle Road for $195,000 for a passive park.
“Why do we need a park when we can’t even have a senior center?” asked Levy.
The current senior center on Bay Shore Road, a former sewage treatment facility, is outdated and too small, she said.
Levy later told The Press that there is only one room at the senior center on Bay Shore Road.
“When there’s a dinner, it’s completely filled,” said Levy, who is on the senior center board. “That’s why some people don’t come back.”
Councilman James Seaman at the meeting said the city has “made a significant initial planning phase,” in a new center.
“I know,” said Levy, “but Mr. Filipiak thought it would be done by `09. We had high hopes. It has been four-and-a-half years already since we have asked.” During that time, she added, the city has appropriated $1 million annually for the recreation department.
“But yet, how can they ever have money for a senior center?” she asked.
“If you’ll recall, when we first started talking about a senior center way back then, there was a group that wanted to stay where you were at,” said Brown. “They liked that location.”
Plans were drawn up by former Mayor James Haley to add onto the building, said Brown.
“There was a beautiful view of the lake,” said Brown. “Where did that go?”
“Haley told me he would never approve of adding on there,” said Levy.
“This administration is not turning a deaf ear,” said Brown. “We know what you want. We know where it will possibly go. But we have to work through the process. It took us this long for the seniors to decide where to put it.”
The city last year hired architect Munger and Munger to come up with a design of a new center next to the municipal building on Seaman Road.
Munger’s design included a 200,000 square-foot footprint of the center, which featured a general purpose room, dining room, kitchen area, storage room, a billiards and quilting area, computer lab space, an exercise room with a bike and treadmill, fireplace, display area for arts and crafts, and a study/library.
“What would be the next step?” asked Seaman. “We had tremendous citizenry input with Munger and Munger. We had a great presentation. I thought it was a good effort, was economical, gave some good insights to planning, and it showed the size of the building, but a lot of appurtenances, as we had said, could wait so the cost would be a lot less than $5 million to start with.
Filipiak has continued to meet with Munger and Munger, said Brown.
“It’s not a dead issue,” she said.
“We have tried to get the project down to a more manageable cost, something where it could be phased in,” said Filipiak. “But even with that, you’re looking at bidding out a project that is going to have a construction estimate of $4 million at a minimum. Given the present economic climate and other large scale projects that we have out there now, we’re going to want to get a little bit more data. We’re two months into this year, and Oregon is holding its own. But cities historically lag behind the national economy in terms of recessionary impact. We don’t know where we’re going to shake out with the Wheeling Street project, which is a $10 million project. We’ve spent several million dollars over the last 10 years on drainage improvements. With what appears to be a more regular occurrence of these rain events, clearly, drainage has become an even higher priority. It really comes down to that.”
There is still a desire for a new center, added Filipiak.
“So the next step would be for us to feel comfortable enough where we’re putting a financing package together. We’re in the process of doing that. We have spent a lot of time and effort cultivating our arrangement with the Area Office on Aging. And we’ve been assured that right now, this is the only major project that they foresee in northwest Ohio for some time,” said Filipiak.
He said he spoke with State Rep. Matt Szollosi, who believes the city could, in the future, secure funds through the state capital budget.
“But not in this environment,” he said.
The next step is to put together final architectural drawings and enter into an agreement for a new center, said Filipiak.
Seaman said he was satisfied that the city is doing enough to pursue a new center. “You’re doing what you can, and we have your integrity and honesty that you support it,” said Seaman.
Levy told The Press that she expects to see the city complete the next step this year and will keep up the pressure until a senior center is built.