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Senior center funding taking shape

December 14, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Conceptual drawings unveiled last week provide an early look at the design for a $5.8 million senior center that Washington County plans to build on the Hagerstown Community College campus off Robinwood Drive.

The conceptual plans show a roughly 24,000-square-foot facility with a gymnasium, kitchen, Internet cafe, multipurpose dining room, and a variety of meeting and activity rooms, including a computer lab, game room and art room.

The designs also show a second floor with offices and cubicles for the Washington County Commission on Aging's administrative staff, who would move to the new center from their current offices in the Aspiring to Serve building at 140 W. Franklin St.

Project grows

County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said plans for the center grew bigger as county and Commission on Aging staff identified additional funding sources for the project.

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In May, the commissioners approved a $3 million budget for the senior center, which Murray said would be enough to build a 15,000-square-foot center. That figure included a $672,000 Community Development Block Grant available for the project and $2.3 million in county funds.

Since then, Commission on Aging staff learned that a private foundation in Frederick, Md., could provide an additional $1 million grant for activity spaces for seniors with special needs, such as dementia patients, Murray said.

That group, the Weinberg Foundation, has had multiple meetings with the Commission on Aging about the project, agency Executive Director Susan J. MacDonald said.

The Commission on Aging is in the process of applying for the funds and expects to hear in the spring whether the grant has been approved, she said.

In addition, the state indicated it could contribute about $800,000 for the portion of the center used for Meals on Wheels preparation and for serving daily meals to seniors, he said. Meals on Wheels is a service that delivers hot, nutritious meals to medically homebound individuals.

Finally, staff determined the county could fund the construction of a second floor for Commission on Aging administrative offices with the money currently used to lease space for those offices, Murray said. The county pays about $70,000 a year for the Commission on Aging's space in the Aspiring to Serve building at 140 W. Franklin St., he said.

Those additions bring the total project budget to $5.8 million, Murray said.

Design concept

At the request of Commissioner William J. Wivell, Brent A. Feight, president of Bushey Feight Morin Architects Inc. of Hagerstown, donated his services to create conceptual site renderings and floor plans for the center, Murray said.

The county will put the design contract out to bid, but Murray said he anticipated Feight's contributed work would put him in a position to submit a low bid.

In Feight's designs, seniors would park in a designated senior center parking lot or get dropped off on a loop in front of the building, then approach the building under a covered walkway, Feight said. They would enter a lobby with an information desk that would serve as a gathering place with seating and access to restrooms and an elevator to the second floor.

On one side of the lobby would be a wing with five activity rooms of roughly 400 square feet each, including a computer lab, art room and the special-needs rooms funded by the foundation grant, provided that funding comes through, Feight said.

Another door from the lobby would open onto a 4,624-square-foot gymnasium, which could have a stage, badminton courts and shuffleboard courts, he said. That space would have an operable wall to divide it into two smaller spaces, as needed.

The lobby would open onto a corridor with a large group meeting room, also divisible with an operable wall, and five small conference rooms that could be used for Commission on Aging services such as benefits counseling and tax assistance, Feight said.

At the end of the corridor would be a multipurpose dining room, an Internet cafe area, and a kitchen that would serve the cafe, the daily eat-in meal program and the Meals on Wheels program, Feight said. It would not be a full kitchen, but would have warming tables, microwaves and assembly space, he said.

The kitchen would open onto a service dock where Meals on Wheels vehicles could pick up meals, Feight said.

The second floor space would house the Commission on Aging staff currently based in the West Franklin Street offices, but the staff who serve the other senior sites throughout the county would remain at those locations, MacDonald said.

Next steps

County and HCC staff are nearing completion of a draft agreement related to the center, which will be presented to the commissioners for approval, Murray said.

If all goes well, construction could start in summer 2010 and the senior center could open in 2011, he said.

The commissioners reached a consensus to move forward with the expanded version of the project, provided the anticipated funding is obtained.

The only commissioner to speak against the plan was James F. Kercheval, who said he saw the need for a senior center but did not think the HCC campus was the best location for it.

"I do believe that, particularly now that we're up to a $6 million investment, that this investment should have been in our downtown core," Kercheval said.

MacDonald said the Commission on Aging would maintain a downtown presence through its Potomac Towers and Walnut Towers sites, and is discussing adding a site at the senior apartments that the Hagerstown Housing Authority plans to build at 55 W. Baltimore St.




Senior Center Funding Breakdown

County funds already budgeted $2.3 million

Administrative space, funded by eliminating $70,000 per-year lease for current Commission on Aging offices $1 million

Private foundation grant for special-needs spaces (anticipated) $1 million

State grant for kitchen and dining space for meals programs (anticipated) $800,000

Community Development Block Grant $672,000

Total $5.8 million

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