County might use grant to build senior center

May 19, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- The availability of federal grant money prompted the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday to change direction yet again in their plans for a permanent senior center in Hagerstown.

With the help of $672,000 from a Community Development Block Grant, the county could build a new senior center on an existing county site, such as the Hagerstown Community College campus, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said.

County staff members estimate that a new 15,000-square-foot building would cost about $3 million, provided the county did not have to buy land for it, Murray said.

To keep their options open, the commissioners agreed Tuesday to set aside enough funding in the county's capital improvement plan to construct an approximately $3 million senior center, but they have not committed to that plan.


The commissioners added the $672,000 in potential grant funds to the $1 million already budgeted for the center in fiscal year 2010, and added another $1.3 million to the following fiscal year.

Constructing a senior center would present an alternative to previous ideas, such as renting the former Richardson's restaurant, which would require paying for renovations to a property the county would not own.

The Richardson's proposal was popular among county seniors, who liked its accessibility, parking and relatively quick availability, but some commissioners were reluctant to put the necessary money into a property the county would never own.

Commissioner William J. Wivell, who has been pushing to put the center on the HCC campus, brought up the grant funding during budget discussions Tuesday and suggested setting the additional funds aside.

Murray said officials with the Community Development Block Grant Program have said a senior center would be eligible and would be a good use of the funds.

Hagerstown Community College officials were open to the idea of building the center on their campus, Murray said.

If the county starts plans for the senior center right away, construction could begin next spring and the center could open by 2011, Murray said.

Murray said his 15,000-square-foot proposal represented the size of the Richardson's restaurant site plus the size of the Washington County Commission on Aging offices, which could be moved to the new building. If the commission did not want to move its offices to the new building, the size and cost could be cut roughly in half, he said.

Another option for the senior center still on the table is to use the vacant U.S. Army Reserve building on Willard Street, Murray said. That facility would have to be transferred to the county by the federal government, a process that could take years, he said.

The Herald-Mail Articles