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Published: 10/10/2007

Center will go on city-owned land

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If a new senior center in Oregon is built, it will be on city-owned land next to its recreation complex.

Though the pursuit of a senior center is an administrative task, Oregon Mayor Marge Brown had asked Oregon City Council to give her some direction on the most optimal location for a new center, and councilmen answered her publicly at their regularly scheduled council meeting Monday night.

They said that if a new center was the way to go, they wanted to see it near the William P. Coontz Complex off Seaman Road.

"Unless another source comes up that involves other funding, this site looks good," Council President Mike Seferian said. "The spot is designated. We have officially pinned that down."

A new senior center has been a topic that's been tossed around off and on over the last several years. The mayor has said she envisions a senior center becoming the cornerstone of a bigger building project - one that would include a community center with a stage for concerts and plays.

Something needs to be done since senior citizens have outgrown the existing James "Wes" Hancock Senior Citizens Center, 5760 Bayshore Rd. at Southshore Park. The former wastewater treatment facility is too small for all the activities and functions local seniors would like to use it for, including billiards, cards, exercise classes, and art.

While a new center is a possibility, several senior citizens who regularly visit the center on Bayshore have said they would rather see an addition on the existing center. Many of those supporters showed up at council's finance committee meeting last week to reiterate their stance.

While some councilmen have said they see merits in expanding the current center by Lake Erie, most said they feel a new center is the way to go.

"I want a new center," Councilman Sandy Bihn said at the finance committee meeting. "I think to pull it together, it has to be here [near the recreation facilities]. If we can't get together, we won't be able to get anything."

The city bought 56 acres just east of the William P. Coontz Complex off Seaman Road last year for future recreation or city needs.That site was a favorite for a new senior center because it is in the geographic center of the city near recreation department programs and the site is controlled by the city. Also, there is ample land for expansion, if desired, or for other community-based facilities that would benefit from proximity to the senior center.

Disadvantages include a lost opportunity to develop the land for other purposes, congestion on the grounds when many activities are going on, and costs for public utility extension.

Other locations under consideration were near the Navarre Avenue central business district or next to the Eastern YMCA.

"I think there is a certain reasonableness to the thought that if one is built, there is ample room here and there are advantages to building it here on the city's site," Councilman Jerry Peach said. "But speaking for myself, I will remain open to other possibilities."

About 10 percent of Oregon's senior population was contacted last year to get a sampling of what they desire. More than 76 percent said they think a new senior center is a good idea, according to the needs assessment survey conducted by the Area Office on Aging in December. About a third of Oregon's nearly 20,000 residents are at least 60 years old.

Regardless of what council decides, City Administrator Ken Filipiak prepared a 10-page memo for the mayor and council detailing new senior center facility project considerations.

He said an adequate center should be about 13,000 square feet and include plenty of space for lunch as well as small and large functions, an ability to host several simultaneous functions, rooms that can be subdivided, kitchen space, a dining area, and sufficient parking, storage, and office spaces, among other design elements.

It should also feature points of interest outside, such as a garden and outside sitting area.

"Overall, the building and its elements must strike a balance between flexible functionality and a 'clubhouse' feel," he stated in the memo.

Such a facility would likely cost about $3.7 million. Mr. Filipiak estimated up to $1 million could be raised through grants, primarily available through the Area Office on Aging, or private donations.

In addition, the center's annual operating budget will likely be between $200,000 and $300,000. Mr. Filipiak identified four main sources of funding for senior centers in Lucas County: Area Office on Aging levy funds, fee-based services, donations, and public contributions from the host jurisdiction.

"I really don't care where we put the thing, as long as we put it someplace," said Bob Benton, senior center board president.



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