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The Prineville Senior Center is receiving $962,000 for long-awaited building repairs

JASON CHANEY - A new cover will be added above the walkway going into the senior center, and the ramp and railing will be renovated to meet ADA standards. In addition, the roof of the building will be repaired as well as the parking lot just outside the facility.

The Prineville Senior Center was recently awarded about $962,000 in grant funding to make multiple repairs to its aging facility.

"We are beyond excited," said Senior Center Director Melody Kendall. "We worked so hard for two years on this project."

Andrew Spreadborough, NeighborImpact's deputy executive director, worked twice with the Soroptimist Charitable Trust to land a Community Development Block Grant. An effort in 2016 was denied, although Spreadborough said that had more to do with competition for the money than the proposed use of the funding.

"This year, I think we were ahead of the game because we learned a lot last year, and our application was in really good shape," Kendall said. "So when they came back with problems, they were fairly minor, and we were kind of ready for it."

The grant was one of 12 awarded by Business Oregon for city projects in two different counties.

The primary objective of the Community Development Block Grant program is the development of livable communities by expanding economic opportunities, providing decent housing, and creating suitable living environments, principally for persons of low and moderate income.

"These awards can make a big difference for Oregon communities, particularly smaller rural areas that can use a partner for large infrastructure investments," said Chris Harder, director of Business Oregon. "The projects set the stage for long-term economic growth and community health in rural Oregon."

The current Prineville Senior Center building was constructed in 1965, Spreadborough said, and was home to a bowling alley until it was converted to a senior facility in 1979. He noted that since that time, the building has gradually developed issues with its roof, its heating and cooling system, and its parking lot. The ramps leading to the front door of the building have also begun to deteriorate, and since they are not covered overhead, they tend to ice up and cause safety hazards for patrons.

The interior flooring has become a safety hazard as well, with tiles breaking and creating trip hazards, and the kitchen equipment needs upgraded to keep up with the demand for daily lunches and the Meals on Wheels program.

Spreadborough approached the Prineville City Council about this issue because only city or county governments can apply for a Community Block Grant.

"Although the city doesn't own or operate the senior center building, only city or county governments can apply for this specific funding source," he explained.

The city council was willing to apply for the Community Action Grant in 2016 and did so again this past fall.

"The fact that the city, the county and NeighborImpact worked so hard for us, we are forever in their debt," Kendall said. "It is way more than I or the Soroptimists could have done on our own."

The potential for such widespread improvements has kept many senior center visitors in suspense, and they were thrilled to learn the grant was approved as well.

"One of the most heart-warming things is a few years ago, our line dance group came to me and asked if they could start contributing money to go toward the new floor," Kendall recalls. In the years that followed, the group managed to raise $3,700 that went toward matching funds, which improved the likelihood of receiving the grant. Additional matching funds were contributed by Redmond-based TransCanada, Kendall said.

Now that the grant is approved, senior center leaders will need to complete the steps required to begin repair work. First the renovation work goes out to bid, then an environmental review will follow. After that comes meetings with an architecture firm and design of the improvements as well as obtaining building permits. Kendall therefore expects repair work to begin in early 2019.

During the remodel effort, Kendall hopes to keep the senior center open as often as possible. She concedes that it may be necessary to close it for a few days at a time for different repairs, but she wants to avoid closing the facility for a long period of time, which is what happened during a renovation of the building in 2004.

"I want to schedule things so it has the least impact on our seniors," she said.

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