11/12/09 — Seniors share their wish list for new center

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Seniors share their wish list for new center

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 12, 2009 1:46 PM

Jesse McNeil has a simple request for the new county senior center -- a closed vestibule to keep out the draft.

"We need to closed-in a room because we are old, and we are cold," Ms. McNeil said. "Open those doors right there, and we don't need that because you know we have arthritis, lumbago. You name it we've got it. It's no joke. I am not joking. We don't need this cold air on our bones because it hurts."

Ms. McNeil's suggestion joined those for separate restrooms for men and women, larger classrooms capable of seating up to 25 people, an auditorium and/or multi-purpose room, lockers, more parking, security and a green space to grow fruits and vegetables that senior citizens offered up Tuesday morning for the county's new Senior Center.

"I am glad (Director of Facilities Services) Sue (Farmer) and the architects are here because I think they thought that I was crazy everything that I was asking for, but you guys have asked for just about everything I've wanted," said Eryn McAuliffe, Wayne County Services on Aging director.

Seated at a nearby table, and taking notes, were architect Tripp Eure of Peterson Eure and Associates, PA of New Bern and project manager Raymond E. Layton Jr.

The company is in charge of the advanced planning for the new Senior Center and Health Department that the county plans to locate at the old Masons property on William Street.

Eure also did the planning for the county's renovated Jeffrey's Building offices on John Street.

Ms. McAuliffe said she was pleased with the forum and the number of suggestions. She hopes to have another after the first of the year, possibly in the evening, for senior citizens who still work or were otherwise unable to attend Tuesday's session.

"Just because we have had this meeting don't think that you can't give me ideas tomorrow if you think of something or next week or next month," she said. "I will keep a running list."

Services on Aging shares space with the Day Reporting Center in an old bank building at 100 E. John St. The Health Department is located in the old hospital building on East Ash Street. Several outbuildings are used as well.

Consolidating the Health Department under one roof would allow the county to shut down the older, less-energy-efficient outbuildings.

Both departments are overcrowded, county officials say.

"It (Masons property) looks like a wreck now, but these guys will make it beautiful," Ms. McAuliffe said. "There is a lot of parking, and there is space to put some of that garden area in there."

The county paid $800,000 for the 86,000-square-foot Masons building and property that includes a 400-space parking lot. The cost compares to about $35 million the county has estimated that would be needed to build new facilities for the two departments.

The Health Department is expected to take up all of the old Masons store property. A new building would be constructed for Services on Aging.

"I like the idea of a separate building for a Senior Center because we would have more windows and it would be new construction," Ms. McAuliffe said.

"I hope we live to see it," shouted out one man in the back of the room when Ms. McAuliffe said it will be two to three years, depending on funding, before the move is made.

"If we get what we want then it is worth waiting for," said Maria Carter. "The center is like a home to some people."

The advanced planning has been ongoing for the past couple of months and should be completed by the first of the year, Eure said.

Eure said no forum is planned for the Health Department.

"We have been working with the Health Department staff, most importantly to inventory the space they currently have and understand how it is used, to get a feel for spaces they feel are adequately sized as well as spaces that need to be increased in size or new spaces they don't currently have," he said.

The process has included tours of the Health Department and Services on Aging.

"We asked questions and got a feel by watching people who utilize them as to how the spaces are used so we can better understand the needs at the new facility," Eure said.

Once the advanced planning is completed, it will be up to the county to undertake its own evaluation, he said.

The work done by Eure will help the county expedite the process and see where it needs to go from here, Ms. Farmer said.

"This will give us our space requirements and what we need for utilization of that site and what we can and cannot do with it and what our limitations will be. Of course, money will the deciding factor as to what we can and can't do."

A preliminary assessment of the William Street building has been made and overall it is in "good shape," she said. In the assessment the county looked at whether there were any environmental hazardous, things that needed to be addressed. The county has stabilized and secured the building.