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City Manager: Senior Citizens Center Fully Funded According To Plan, Design Process Not Final

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Sulphur Springs Approved For $750,000 TPWD Grant For Pacific Park Improvements

The new Sulphur Springs Senior Citizens Center will be fully funded for construction of an 8,331 square-foot building, according to the city’s original plan, which will “meet all the needs” for the facility, Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell said during a press conference called Friday morning to clarify details about the project.

He also reported that while the designs for the facility are close, they have yet to be finalized and approved. Thus, the design plans released earlier this week by Senior Citizens Center Director Karon Weatherman, were released prematurely and have not been approved.

Maxwell said there will be no fundraising at this time for a larger facility. If any funds come earmarked to help construct a larger facility, those funds will be returned.

The new senior citizens center is being built based on need, just as city hall was constructed baed on need. While it is being designed with potential to expand in the future if needed to meet growing needs, with a couple of different options for expansion, the design team has been working with the architect for a design that “will meet our needs, if not all our our wants.”

“The building that we came up with is 83-hundred feet, actually a littler larger than 83-hundred square feet. The building that we are in right now is 45-hundred square feet if you count the storage that was added on to the side of the building. So the building will meet all of our needs. There will be two events a year that are quite large,” Maxwell said.

Senior Citizens Center, located at 150 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

Those two events, the Clara Bridges 90-Plus banquet and the Senior Olympics, may need to be held at Hopkins County Regional Civic Center or other facility such as First Baptist Church’s The ROC.

“That’s quite alright because we don’t want to build a building that is so large that it accommodates every event but we don’t use a good portion of it the other 363 days a year that we are heating and cooling and maintaining the rest of it. That’s kind of the way we do things,” Maxwell said.

Weatherman earlier in the week had indicated a desire to construct the facility with the potential expansion. A building fundraising committee was reportedly being formed to try to raise with the goal of raising an additional $350,000-$400,000 to expand the current design to provide a larger meeting space to be able to hold all annual senior citizens program at the center and potentially expand the Meal A Day area. The goal would be to incorporate the expansion into the original construction instead of later, as an addition, to meet all annual needs, including the larger programs, and to cut down on future construction costs.

“That created the impression in the community that there wasn’t enough money to build the building, and that’s absolutely not true,” Maxwell said. “So, that’s what we’re here for today, to correct that impression.”

He said the city has the money “to build what we intended to build all along. Nothing has changed.” Maxwell said constructing the facility as the design committee is planning would be a “responsible use of the tax payers’ dollars.”

City Finance Director Lesa Smith said she did consult with the architect regarding cost of an expansion.

“That’s not an accurate number to give on what we would need,” Smith said of the amount sought by the building fundraising committee. “Because, architect fees would go up, all of those special services fees would go up with an expansion of the building. So, he said he would be more comfortable with $500,000 if we were going to do what she’s requested.”

The new senior citizens center and Pacific Park improvements are being funded with the $3 million received in bond proceeds in March; $1.5 million has been designated toward each project. Sulphur Springs residents in November 2019 voted to allow the city to use up to $200,000 of EDC money for up to 20 years for a 4B purpose, to make payments on the bond. The project has to be finished within 3 years of issuing the bond.

City’s Design Plan for Senior Citizens Center

The city’s design plans call for a crafts room, meeting room, almost 2,000 square foot banquet area that can be broken up into three meeting rooms, an outdoor courtyard for seating or outdoor activities, a section for the Meal A Day program with a commercial style kitchen, a small library, office space and a reception area, city staff reported.

“Also, on the outside, they’re separating where they’re going to be able to drive right up and where seniors can be let off. It’s a lot situation than it is now. And, then, Meal A Day has its own bay for its own drivers and people who deliver the meal. The parking lot is designed very well for ample parking and both of those functions to occur,” Sulphur Springs Mayor John Sellers said.

“It’s a very flexible design,” Maxwell said.

future site of the new Seinor Citizens Center on Oak Avenue.

Sellers said reiterated that the plan “is an expandable design, if that ever comes forward, or they money’s there, etcetera,” Sellers said.

While participation in Senior Center activities varies by activity, with 15-20 for some programs, “there’s never a great amount of people at once except when she has one of these special events. Of course, we hope that attendance will improve with this new wonderful facility we’re going to have,” Sellers said.

The facility has been closed since midMarch, due to COVID-19 risk for senior citizens.

Smith said there will be room at the new facility for at least five activities at once. The current facility’s limited space and design make it hard to hold more than one activity at a time.

Maxwell said there’s still a lot to be done before the start of construction on the new Senior Citizens Activity Center. He said the project is being designed now. He does not anticipate breaking ground for another 4 months.

Previous fundraisers generated just over $107,600, which will be used for furnishing for the new senior citizens activity building, according to Maxwell.

Pacific Park Project

City officials applied for a $750,000 Parks and Wildlife Department grant, part of the city’s plan to be able to fund the Pacific Park improvement project as planned.

“We were fairly certain we would get that grant. We have a very good track record with getting Parks and Wildlife grants,” Maxwell said.

The city manager said he was notified last week that it was recommended to the commission. The city receive notification Thursday, Aug. 27, that the grant application had been approved. The TPWD grant is a matching grant, which means the city will also have to contribute $750,000 – a portion of the bond funding. Combined, that provides $2.25 million for the “rather larger improvement complex” in Pacific Park.

“It’s going to be a fabulous park,” Maxwell said.

Rendering of the future Grays Building community center to be constructed in Pacific Park

The grant is specifically for parks, and cannot be used for buildings, Sellers pointed out.

The Pacific Park project will include a new Grays Community Building that will be lined up on the center line of the park, with indoor and outdoor areas, three bay rollup doors. A large covered sports pavilion will be located on the other end of the park. There will be new playgrounds, a lighted walking path, improvements to the splash pad, an outdoor basketball court and new restrooms.

The funding will cover all costs of Pacific Park improvements included in the city’s project plan.

The Grays building will be started first. City staff have already performed dirt work on the pad site for the new community building. The City Council, at the next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 1, is scheduled to consider bids and award a contract for the Grays Building. (That meeting will be conducted online, streamed on the City of Sulphur Springs Meetings Youtube page)

“We wanted to get that under way. before long we will have a design for the rest of the park. We have a basic layout. That was the process we went through a couple of years ago, when we had the community come out and we did our planning charrette. But now, we are going to get down to construction projects and actually begin construction of the rest of the park. That’s probably 6 months out,” Maxwell said.

Author: Faith Huffman

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