After many delays, new senior center project set to proceed
Tue, 02/28/2023 - 1:47pm caleb
Board of commissioners on Thursday approves construction bids and a contribution of up to $1 million in ARPA money
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
A renovation project for Crawford County’s new senior center facility – located on M-72 East – is set to proceed following a series of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent cost overruns.
Alice Snyder, Director of the Crawford County Commission on Aging, offered the Crawford County Board of Commissioners – during a regular meeting of the board on Thursday, February 23 – an overview of the history of the new senior center project.
Spring of 2019, getting estimates for the renovation project at the new facility (former Springs Window location). March of 2020, voters approving a $3 million bond proposal for the project. A couple of weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the state and “shutting everything down.” December of 2020, changes to the scope of the project. March of 2021, putting the project “on hold” because of skyrocketing construction costs. August of 2022, bidding the project. January of 2023, re-bidding it and eliminating the gymnasium from the plan.
“This has been a long project,” Snyder said.
Snyder said some categories of the project did not receive bids during the processes and there have been “struggles” with regard to finding contractors to do all of the work. Snyder said the Commission on Aging has Phase I and Phase II for the project, and Phase I – the bulk of the work that will allow the COA to move into the new senior center – is ready to proceed. Snyder said there were two categories that did not receive bids in the latest round but one of them (masonry) will not affect Phase I and the COA will keep trying to find a contractor for the other (a small amount of roofing).
Snyder reported that the COA board met on Wednesday, February 22, and approved bids for the project. Snyder said the Commission on Aging is asking for $1 million of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act money to help with the project.
Snyder said the gymnasium is not part of Phase I.
“What you see in front of you does not include the gymnasium at all,” Snyder said.
Snyder said the Commission on Aging is trying to address the gym through a Department of Natural Resources grant that would also include an outdoor pickleball court. Snyder said the COA is working with the local trail committee on a DNR grant project that would construct a trail along M-72 from Grayling to Rayburn’s, which would include offering seniors a path from town to the new senior center.
Snyder said some seniors have tried to travel to the new facility from town via scooters, etc. and they need safer access when not traveling by car.
“It worries me that there’s no sidewalk or anything,” Snyder said.
The February 23 meeting board packet included recommendations to the county board from the county’s audit committee with regard to American Rescue Plan Act allocations.
“During the regular meeting of the board of commissioners on February 9, 2023, after a request for monies from the county’s allocation of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, the board of commissioners requested the audit committee review the current status of ARPA funding. We were also asked to put together a list of potential projects using the ARPA dollars. The audit committee met on Friday, February 17, 2023 for that purpose,” according to a letter to the board from the audit committee.
“The county received almost $2,725,000 in ARPA funding. To date we have spent approximately $411,616. We have committed another $275,153 for the parking lot replacement project that will begin this spring,” according to the audit committee. “After significant discussion, the audit committee is recommending that up to $1 million be allocated to the Commission on Aging building project. We believe that this needs to be a top priority because the county made a good faith promise to the community to build a new senior center. When the audit committee first discussed potential projects, some of the key elements we wanted to consider included: broad range of community impact, assistance to vulnerable population, and core responsibility of county government. The senior center building project encompasses these elements.”
“The audit committee can only recommend; it is up to the board to make the final determination,” according to the letter.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners approved the bids for the senior center project with a 5-0 vote (two members absent) on Thursday.
The board also voted 5-0 to allocate up to $1 million of the county’s ARPA money for the new senior center.
“Let’s get this project started,” said Commissioner Jamie McClain (District #4).
“On behalf of the COA and everyone it serves, I want to thank the voters for supporting this building expansion back in 2020 and want to thank the county commissioners today for seeing the value in this project today for our community’s older adults,” Snyder said after the meeting.
Later in the day, the Crawford County Commission on Aging issued a press release that included specific details about the project.
“Moving forward, this project will still resolve many of the COA’s existing problems. There will be no more issues with parking at the new location as it will have ample space for all visitors. We will increase the size of our kitchen and have a walk-in cooler/freezer, which is a common amenity in most commercial kitchens. There will be a dedicated space for classes in the new Exercise Studio and we will no longer need to use the dining room for regular activities and meetings with the addition of a Conference Room and Activity Room. We’ll more than double our restroom capacity. We’ll also have a bonus room for large events and meals that will be available for rent,” according to the Commission on Aging. “We continue to work on additional funding for the gymnasium, which is now Phase II of the project.”
“We hope to break ground at the beginning of May or sooner if we can,” according to the press release.
According to COA, construction time is projected to be approximately eight months with official opening of the facility expected in early 2024.