Separate location likely
Now that Project AWAYSIS site work is progressing at a rapid rate, it is time for the planning of a new Storm Lake Senior Citizens Center to be brought back to a boil.
"The seniors have been very patient," said Mike Wilson, the AWAYSIS project manager for the city. "We assured them that while the project had to move to a back burner for a little while, they were not being forgotten. Now it's time to get them back on that front burner."
The original AWAYSIS plan called for a new senior center to be constructed as part of the AWAYSIS development, in the area of the campground. A later plan called for the senior center to be built in the area of the former water plant in Sunset Park, along with the historical society's log home and one-room schoolhouse. The city council voted that idea down after complaints from nearby residents.
Now, the seniors are feeling somewhat left out. "We noticed that the senior center was not included in the brochures that were put out on AWAYSIS, and some are feeling that they just wanted the older people's votes in the bond issue election," said Donna Garlock, site manager for the senior center. "We still haven't heard from the city council on why the Sunset Park location was voted down so suddenly, and we have yet to hear any alternative site proposed."
Wilson said Monday that as of this time, no potential alternative sites have been named for a senior center. It is unlikely that the building would be in the AWAYSIS destination park development, he said.
"The seniors were not terribly excited about the campground location anyway, feeling that it might be too far for some of the seniors to access and that the traffic in that area might be too congested," he said. "What we will probably be looking at is a separate location elsewhere in the city."
The city has not changed its stance on providing a new location for the seniors to use, at city expense. "We won't leave them hanging too long," Wilson said. He said that if a site is located soon, the city will still be able to follow a timeline for construction in 2006, as was originally planned.
The seniors' organization owns the current center they occupy downtown, which is largely utilized for the Dinner Date program, which is vital for social and nutrition aspects of life for local seniors, Garlock said. The seniors' budget is becoming depleted, however, and their building is aging and becoming costly to keep up, with few sources of income.
A new alternative will be needed fairly soon, senior program leaders say.
"We hope people realize that what will be built will not just be a senior center," Garlock said. "While the seniors will use it for their programs, the building will belong to the city and all of the people, and it could be utilized for many other things as well."