Traverse City News and Events

TC Senior Center Targeted For Upgrade

By Beth Milligan | Aug. 14, 2018

Long-gestating plans to rehabilitate the Traverse City Senior Center could soon move forward with the support of city and county commissioners.

Traverse City commissioners received an update Monday on staff efforts to move forward with Senior Center improvements, including obtaining bids from local firms to either repair or rebuild the waterfront facility on East Front Street. Traverse City owns the building and property along West Grand Traverse Bay, while the county operates the facility as part of the Grand Traverse County Senior Center Network.

Built in 1969, the facility has the same original plumbing, electrical, walls, floors, and interiors as when it first opened. Discussions on remodeling the building to serve the needs of a growing regional senior population date back to at least 2000, according to project documents. Just over $663,000 in funding is earmarked for building upgrades from donations, grants, trusts, and the Senior Center fund balance; preliminary rough estimates from local firms to repair or rebuild the building range from $806,000 to $1.6 million, depending on the project scope.

City Manager Marty Colburn told commissioners that recent meetings between city and county staff and attorneys led both groups to conclude that building a new Senior Center would be preferable to renovating the existing facility. “Decades ago, it was basically (built as) a cabana…and through the years and generations, it’s had build-ons on there,” Colburn said. He noted that several aspects of the building are out-of-date with current code regulations. “It might be best to take a look at putting up something new. Either way it’s going to be fairly costly, but we’ve got a great start now with the different funds that have come in.”

Colburn said he planned to convene a joint meeting between city and county commissioners within the next few months with the goal of agreeing on a plan of action for the Senior Center and passing a joint resolution affirming both boards’ commitment to the project. That discussion could include reevaluating the agreement between the city and county and how Senior Center programming responsibilities are divided between the two entities, Colburn said. The city manager added he hoped to have at least one designated “champion” on both the city and county commissions who would promote a public capital campaign to raise the remaining funds needed to build a new facility.

“Our community gets a little bit older every year…we only expect more demand in services in this particular area,” Colburn said.

Commissioners Richard Lewis and Brian McGillivary both expressed their support for using some of the existing project funds to hire an architectural firm to provide design drawings and more refined cost estimates for a Senior Center rebuild. “We’re going to have to have some fairly good ideas of what it’s going to look like in order to get people to (donate),” Lewis said. McGillivary added: “I’d be in favor of spending the money to get a design…I’m in favor of replacing (the building). I do think it’s time we move forward with this.” Both commissioners agreed the existing building was in rough shape and that local seniors deserved an improved facility.

An upcoming joint city and county commission meeting would also allow for public input on the project plans. Mayor Jim Carruthers said it would also be important to establish a plan for where Senior Center programming would be held during a reconstruction project and make sure residents knew where to access programs and services during a potential demolition and rebuild.

Also at Monday night’s meeting…
> Traverse City commissioners received an update on a detailed timeline and budget projections for a five-phase, multi-million dollar reconstruction of the Eighth Street corridor over the next 16 months. The project includes multiple individual construction projects, including reconstructing the north alley of Eighth Street between Boardman and Railroad avenues, reconstructing Lake Avenue from Eighth Street to Cass Street, rebuilding the Eighth Street bridge, and reconstructing Eighth Street itself between Boardman and Woodmere avenues beginning in summer 2019. Commissioners agreed to host one or more public study sessions later this fall and early winter to fine-tune the design plans for the main road reconstruction, including reviewing components such as a proposed cycle track through the corridor, new traffic lights at several cross-streets, and trees/landscaping/green space along Eighth Street.

> City commissioners Monday also expressed support for a staff proposal to convert to paperless city commission packets. Deputy City Clerk Katie Zeits told commissioners that printing packets – which can sometimes number hundreds or even thousands of pages – for board members consumed hours of staff time and generated high printing costs. Several commissioners also attested the packets were inefficient and created unnecessary waste. The new paperless system, estimated to cost $6,000, will provide software that will allow commissioners to digitally access their packets on iPads and use on-screen tools to highlight, annotate, and search meeting packets.

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