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Commission on Aging to seek $800,000 for senior center

August 07, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Commission on Aging will continue its push for a senior center today by asking the County Commissioners to set aside $800,000 for the project in the county's capital improvement budget.

The project is expected to cost several million dollars and likely will need funding from a variety of sources, all of which are waiting for the county to take the first step, according to Susan MacDonald, executive director of the Commission on Aging.

"The county's commitment would be key to getting help from anyone else," MacDonald said.

The $800,000 request is the maximum amount of money the state would match under its Senior Center Capital Improvement Program, which provides grants to local governments to build senior centers.

President John F. Barr said the county commissioners are "looking at options" to help fund the project.

"I know this is something there is a need for, and we are exploring possibilities for it," Barr said.

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MacDonald and Commission on Aging board member Linn Hendershot went before the county commissioners in June to ask for support for the project. During a presentation, they noted that Washington County is the only county in Maryland without a multipurpose senior center.

"This is an area in which we are lacking," Commissioner James F. Kercheval said. "The senior population is going to double over the next 20 years, and we need to plan for their future."

Washington County has several "senior sites" that offer a meal and some kind of activity every day but do not offer the range of activities that would be found at a dedicated senior center, MacDonald said.

Carroll County, which the Commission on Aging has used as a model in developing its plan for Washington County, has five senior centers that provide meals, classes, activities and fitness programs for county residents, according to Rick Steinburg, Chief of the Carroll County Bureau on Aging. Steinburg said the county's newest center was 25,000 square feet and cost about $3 million.

A senior center in Washington County will require funding from local and state government, nonprofits and private donors, according to MacDonald. She said the agency has spoken to several possible donors and is in the process of putting together a funding package.

The agency plans to open its first senior center in downtown Hagerstown. After that, they want to build several more centers in the county, MacDonald said.

The Commission on Aging has not found a location for the center but is interested in the Antietam Paper building on Summit Avenue, MacDonald said. Another possibility is the fifth floor of the Aspiring to Serve Community Center, where the Commission on Aging's offices are housed.

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