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Publication Date: Friday, November 15, 2002

Council considers pre-fab building for temporary senior center Council considers pre-fab building for temporary senior center (November 15, 2002)

By Candice Shih

The controversial issue of where to locate a temporary senior center came full circle this week, as the city council considered the possibility of housing a temporary senior center in prefabricated buildings in light of environmental concerns that killed an earlier plan.

While the current senior center -- located in Rengstorff Park -- is rebuilt to assure seismic safety, the city will need to house the center in an interim location for at least five years. Earlier this year, the council decided against using modular buildings at a Rengstorff Park site, eventually settling for a Middlefield Road location.

However, that plan was scrapped when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said there was a possibility that underground toxins could pose a health risk to seniors.

Cathy Lazarus, the city's director of public works, said city staff had studied more than 50 other potential locations, but most were immediately nixed for being inadequate for the center's needs or unavailable in the necessary timeframe.

During a Tuesday afternoon study session, the council also looked at options to place the interim senior center at various downtown locations.

However, parking was determined to be inadequate and traffic is heavy at these sites.

Council member Rosemary Stasek said the modular building site "is the best of some not very good choices. ... I don't see any other alternatives." The city has already budgeted for the interim center's estimated cost of $2.53 million.

Many seniors had demonstrated to council their desire to see an interim site next to the current senior center, especially because they are familiar with and have easy access to the location. Gardening, a senior center activity, could be preserved by allocating space for it elsewhere in Rengstorff Park.

Barbara Goodwin and other seniors at the study session said they would prefer to use the underutilized community center as an interim senior center. The kitchen at the community center, however, would be inadequate to meet the needs of the seniors' popular hot lunch program, said Stasek.

According to Goodwin, 64 seniors recently signed a petition declaring their wish to leave the present building standing despite the city's determination that, in the event of a major earthquake, the center would be rendered unusable.

"We are happy with it," said Thelma DiMaria. "With the amount of money being spent, I think you should reconsider."

Lazarus responded that it would not be cost-effective to retrofit the building. In addition, the current senior center is not accessible to the disabled in all areas, the electrical system is outdated, the heating and ventilation systems are old, and the roof needs to be replaced.

"We're between a rock and a hard place," she said.

The council will take a formal vote as early as next Tuesday's meeting to determine the location of the interim senior center.

Council members will also continue to consider design plan options for the new center. Construction on the new building, however, will likely be held off until funding is made available for it.
E-mail Candice Shih at


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