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Did officials budget enough for senior center upgrades?
Citizens oversight committee questions level of funding
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Renovating the Senior Life Center in Gainesville has long been a project on the to-do list of city and county officials, and funding was finally approved with the passage of special purpose local option sales tax VII this year.

The current 5,000-square-foot center, which provides services for 60 to 100 seniors each day, was long ago outdated.

But will $1.5 million be enough to develop a campus feel for the new center, double the size and replete with a billiards room, café, learning kitchen, music center, dance floor, meeting rooms, wellness center, resistance pool and art studio?

That was one consideration members of the SPLOST citizens advisory committee gave to the project at a meeting Tuesday.

“There’s a lot to be desired,” committee member Doug Aiken said. “I don’t think you can do it for $1.5 million.”

Over the past few years, Community Service Center Director Phillippa Lewis Moss has made it a point to recruit and retain new retirees to the center’s programs.

But the catch is that renovations are needed to attract Baby Boomers.

Moss said she hopes to put a shovel in the ground to launch the renovations within two years.

Gainesville will handle bids and contracts for the construction, and the build-out timeline is about six months.

If all goes to plan, Moss said activities at the center will be transitioned to the Community Service Center administration building next door.

“It’ll be a tight squeeze, but we will make it work,” she added.

In turn, staff will direct more activities away from the site, including more leisure trips to area parks and local events.

The center helps seniors live relatively independent lives, which is why Aiken said he supports the project.  

“It helps people my age,” he added.  

But would the center be better off if it were built at an entirely new site?

After all, remodeling is more expensive than it sounds, Aiken said, particularly with an old building like the current location.

Perhaps a move to the Hall County Government Center is an option, considering the county already owns land there, which would be the biggest expense of relocating.

Of course, a move that far from downtown Gainesville might pull the rug out from under the majority of senior center clients.

“You never know what you’re going to get into,” Aiken said. “There’s a lot of questions about it.”

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