Senior center renovations to begin soon
A long-awaited senior center renovation project is poised to finally begin within the next few weeks.
Facility Director Melody Kendall recently learned that an attempt to secure $1.5 million in grant funding was approved, enabling the project to go out to bid. Tuesday, seven contractors showed up for a pre-bid walkthrough.
"It was very well attended," Kendall said. "We were very happy with the contractors that showed up and with the questions and interest that they showed."
Bid opening is scheduled for Jan. 30 and work is expected to start by March 1.
The recent events are a welcome sight for Kendall, who has been trying to get this project off the ground since 2016. Noticing a problem with the heavily used bottom level flooring, she initially set out to have it replaced. The project grew from that point as she identified other things that were overdue for repair or replacement, such as the roof, parking lot, HVAC system, kitchen appliances, access ramps, lighting and paint.
To fund the work, senior center leaders pursued a Community Development Block Grant, which provides federal funds to local projects. The money is administered through Business Oregon.
Because city and county governments are the only entities that can apply for the grants, the city of Prineville applied for it and Andrew Spreadborough, deputy executive director for NeighborImpact, wrote the grant.
A first attempt at the grant in 2016 failed, but the following year the city and Spreadborough made a second successful attempt, securing $972,003 to complete the extensive list of repairs.
The second attempt then hit a snag when the lone bid for the job came in well beyond the grant amount.
"So, we went back to the state and asked for the maximum amount that is in the category we applied for," Kendall said. "We found out a couple weeks ago that we were successful in that."
Senior center regulars are excited about the upcoming improvements, Kendall said, adding that when the floor problems first emerged, members of the line dancing class began making donations. In fact, they are so excited about the renovation, they are not upset that the project will close the facility for four months.
"I haven't heard any complaints from any of the seniors who come in here every day," Kendall said. "They know the remodel needed to happen."During the temporary closure, the congregate lunches will go on hiatus, but most of the activities and services provided by the senior center will relocate and remain intact.
"We are going to continue the home-delivered meals," Kendall said. "Eastside Church has accepted us out there. Our volunteers will be able to pick them up there and deliver them."
The line dancing and exercise classes will move to the Ochoco Gym and the card-playing groups have found a new place to meet as well.
One limitation the senior center will face is no people under the age of 60 will be permitted to attend activities or events at the facility.
"Because we applied for the category through the grant of 'senior center,' not 'community center,' we have to be for the benefit of 60 and older – period," Kendall said, adding that employees, volunteers and caregivers are exempt from the age requirement.
The change has already prompted the Soroptimists to move their annual Christmas bazaar to the Crook County Fairgrounds.
However, the limitation is temporary, lasting only five year after the date of completion of the grant.
Leading up to the start of the project and the four-month closure, Kendall stressed that the senior center will indeed reopen and when it does, it will be a much better place to gather.
"We will be better able to handle the folks and accommodate everybody," she said. "It is going to be more convenient and accessible for all the seniors."
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