Urbana Champaign County Senior Center Executive Director Stacy Barnhart spoke to Public Employee Retirees Inc. (PERI) members about plans for a new senior center during a meeting at the Champaign County Library on Tuesday. On Jan. 4, Civista Bank donated 2.2 acres behind its 601 Scioto St. property to the Urbana Champaign County Senior Center for use in building a new center.
Last November, voters approved a levy increasing the 0.2-mill property tax levy for the Senior Center to 0.4 mills. Barnhart said the building committee has been discussing moving to a larger center for many years, but that the levy increase finally provided encouragement to begin planning.
“What I have done since I have been the director is every penny that I can save I have saved and put over to go toward our new building, wherever that may be,” Barnhart said. “We had a building committee put together, we had several people who sat on it, they did a search to see if they could find any available land, and the land that would be sufficient for what we needed would be very expensive. So it would take a… $2 million building and then we would have to add on a half a million dollars for land… Civista Bank got in touch with our board and it was mentioned that they had 2.2 acres that they were willing to donate to the center for land.”
Building Committee Chair Mary Lee Gecowets said the goal is to break ground on a 9,000-square-foot, one-story building this spring. She said there have been regular meetings with representatives of Beasley Architecture & Design, in Bellefontaine. Barnhart said that the contractor will go out for public bid.
Barnhart said that the senior population had been exploding and she expects the current 650 members to increase by 25 percent after the move into the new building.
“We have grown tremendously … and we are out of room,” said Barnhart. “We have been out of room for years, and part of the problem is we have a ramp that’s great, but if you’re 95 and your health isn’t the best, and you’re trying to get up that ramp with a walker, it’s a long walk. So we’re not very senior friendly to be a senior center.”
According to Barnhart, the senior center provides vital services for Champaign County seniors, including providing a food pantry so that seniors on a limited budget can get a cart of food every 30 days. The senior center also provides taxes preparation services, medicare assistance, and homemaking services.
She said plans are for the building to have a lot of windows and natural lighting. A canopy in the front of the building will allow buses to drop people off without exposing them to weather.
She said she would like to spend not much over $2 million for the new building, adding the senior center likely would host a fundraiser in the near future. She said the existing senior center building will eventually be sold.
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304