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Leaders approve senior center redesign

Less than two weeks after airing their frustration about being left out when it came to the redesign of a new senior center, members of the Senior Center Advisory Committee were all smiles on Sept. 9.
The group met 12 days earlier to discuss their limited involvement in determining plan changes for the construction of a new senior center, one that was estimated to cost around $2.8 million but instead received a low bid of $4.569 million.
Town leaders including Mayor Kelly Wolfe and Town Administrator Bob Browning have been working with the project architect, Ken Ross Architects, and low bidder Rainey Construction to cut down the proposed facility to get it back within budget.
On Sept. 9, Wolfe, Browning and members of Ken Ross Architects met with the Senior Center Advisory Committee in a called meeting at Town Hall.
“We have a bid in hand that has been negotiated with the low bidder,” Wolfe announced at the start of the meeting. “It eliminates certain systems called for in the original plans.”
The new bid sets the project at $2.3 million.
The basement floor of the two-story building will now be only two-thirds the size it had been on the previous drawing and it will remain entirely unfinished.
“It’s just a gravel floor,” Wolfe said.
Town leaders plan to use $500,000 given by Washington County for the senior center project to finish the basement on their own once the facility is nearing completion, Wolfe noted.
The space was allotted for exercise rooms as well as locker rooms and showers.
On the main floor, Wolfe said two “decent sized changes” will save an estimated $900,000.
A small section jutting off the building that would have housed three administrative offices has been “sliced off” the plans. Also eliminated is an area on the side of the building that would have been a commercial kitchen.
Wolfe said the town will assist in getting a kitchen established elsewhere.
“There’s several rooms in here where we’re going to have more than adequate room for the time being (to provide a kitchen). We’ll have to find us a good place where everyone agrees on to put the kitchen,” Wolfe said. “I’ll guarantee you, it will be a nicer kitchen than what you have right now.”
Leaders also whittled down attic space to just trusses and opted for a simpler HVAC system than the one included in the original bid.
When all is said and done, the main floor will be 13,227 square feet while the basement will be between 8,000 and 9,000 square feet, which can be finished at a later date.
Originally, the total square footage of the new building was estimated to be around 25,000 square feet.
While the new plan does reduce the space, it still amounts to four to five times the room available at the current senior center.
“Ronald Reagan once said, ‘When you get 80 percent of what you want, you should be happy,’” said committee member and former alderman Mary Gearhart. “And I am happy. We are getting that, and we are back down to the original cost.”
Members of the Advisory Committee unanimously approved the new designs for the facility. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen was expected to approve the plans at a meeting later that night.
The new senior center will be located at the corner of East Main Street and Longview Avenue.
Site preparation could begin immediately; however, construction will now be on hold until the state fire marshal gives approval to the revised plans.