By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The aging Wood County Senior Center is being retired.
In front of a packed room of seniors waiting for lunch, Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards announced Thursday that the city has plans to give the Wood County Committee on Aging some land for a new home – the old school central administration property at 140 S. Grove St.
The announcement was welcomed among those who use the senior center on a daily basis.
“It’s about time,” said Mary Hansen, of Bowling Green. She and Virginia Combs quickly listed off all the deficiencies they have noticed at the current senior center which is over a century old. Too many stairs, not enough parking, poor heating and cooling topped the list.
“It gets hot and then it gets cold. We always layer up,” Hansen said.
And then there’s the unreliable elevator. “It makes noises when it does go,” she added.
The news was also welcomed by Herb Hoover, Bowling Green, who frequents the senior center for lunch and card games.
“My wife and I come here five days a week for lunch,” Hoover, 89, said. “It really breaks up the day.”
The gifting of the land for a new senior center may also help the city solve its own building dilemma. For years, city officials have talked about cramped conditions at the city administration building which is located directly to the west of the senior center, which the city owns.
The senior center moving to South Grove Street would free up space for a new city building in the area currently shared by the senior center and the city building.
One problem in the plan may be the fact that the current senior center is on the National Registry of Historical Places. So it is unclear exactly what can be done to the structure.
The building, constructed in 1913, was formerly the city’s post office. In 1981, it became a “state-of-the-art” senior center.
“As a community, we’ve witnessed countless individuals benefit from the services provided at this facility,” the mayor said, mentioning the thousands of meals served at the site. “We are so fortunate to have the Wood County Committee on Aging as part of our community and applaud your work in providing seniors throughout Wood County the resources needed to maintain independence and enjoy this season of their lives.”
But over the years, the building’s age has gotten in the way of its goal to serve the aging. When Edwards stops by for lunch, the shortcomings are often pointed out to him, he said Thursday as he glanced up at the water stains in the dining room ceiling. Retrofitting the site for ADA standards continues to be challenging, the “old and tired elevator is a maintenance nightmare,” the chiller is a six-figure item needing replacement, and façade and roofing problems are looming.
“Our seniors deserve better and the amount of money needed to bring the building to the standard we expect does not make economic sense,” the mayor said.
And parking has been an ongoing problem. “The lack of dedicated parking has been a strain on citizens for many years,” Edwards said.
The land gift has been proposed to the Wood County Committee on Aging, and will be brought to Bowling Green City Council on Monday evening.
Tom Bamburowski, president of the committee on aging board, said architects are working on preliminary plans for the new senior center. The facility will likely be two stories high, which will leave more space for parking and green areas. Initial plans set aside an area for 98 parking spaces.
Bamburowski encouraged seniors and other citizens to offer input for the new building. Two brainstorming sessions are planned for public input, on June 20 at 1:30 p.m., and June 27 at 6:30 p.m., both in the present senior center at 305 N. Main St.
“Your information is not only expected, it is needed,” he said.
The architects for the project will be present at the sessions, according to Jerry Voll, of the architectural team.
Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw also spoke about the role the county may have in the project. The commissioners offered bonding through the county for the committee on aging’s production kitchen on county property in the East Gypsy Lane Road complex.
That facility prepares home-delivered meals for “the more seasoned members of the Wood County population,” Herringshaw said.
The commissioners will work again with the committee on aging to secure funding for this site, she said.
The Wood County Committee on Aging will then conduct a capital campaign to raise funds to pay back the bonds for the new center, which is expected to cost between $3.5 and $4 million, according to Denise Niese, executive director of the committee on aging.
“I will be reaching out all over this county,” Niese said. Though the Bowling Green center serves seniors from the city area, it is also the headquarters for the county-wide system. “The Wood County Senior Center is the home office for all services for programs for services in Wood County. This is home base.”
Niese, who predicted it will be a three- to five-year process to complete a new senior center, said she is pleased with the new location.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for all of us,” she said. “We wanted to remain near downtown. Our participants take advantage of the downtown while they’re here.”
Bowling Green City Council President Mike Aspacher said he is excited about the opportunity the move provides for the senior center and for the city.
“I’m optimistic this will be something council will support,” he said. “I’m really thrilled for the seniors. It’s going to be such an upgrade. They’ve been so challenged by this building.”
And at the same time, it opens a new door to the city for a larger administration building.
“That’s certainly an option that we will be considering,” Aspacher said.