Wellness center update shows some changes

by Gordon Wolf

The second meeting to brief the public on preliminary designs for a proposed Crawford County wellness center was held Wednesday night at the Boulders Conference Center, and the part of the design that generated the most questions was the center for the elderly / multipurpose room.

According to the slides shown, this room would be on the first floor (or main level) of the wellness center and would have its own entrance from the parking lot on the west side of the facility.

The first public design update was on September 21 when the preliminary designs being developed by HGM Associates Inc. were 60% complete.

For Wednesday’s meeting, the preliminary designs were 80% complete.

A number of people who attend Crawford County Senior Center, located on South Main, wanted to know why a senior center was included in the plans. Among those who asked this question was Ron Songer, director of the senior center.

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A few comments from these customers were to “leave us where we are”.

As more questions were being asked by seniors, Wellness Center Committee Member Steve Brownmiller suggested that city staff meet with people from the seniors’ center.

During part of the discussion, City Manager Brad Hanson spoke with Songer, who was seated at the back of the room. Later, Hanson said he and maybe a council member would meet with the people who frequent the senior center.

At the start of the meeting, Hanson explained that the initial preliminary design included many amenities, but some were removed based on projected costs. He said what needed to be done first was to present the “Taj Mahal” version, so that later when people asked why a certain convenience was not included, the answer would be that it had been considered but the budget is limited.

He said the wellness center committee, made up of citizens, believes that funds can be raised for a wellness center.

The Wellness Center and Country Home is planned for the property across from Denison High School and immediately north of the Aquatic Center.

Renderings and preliminary drawings will show more progress as the design process progresses.

The wellness center with all major sports facilities will be to the south of the sports complex. The field has often been referred to as an indoor soccer field, but it can be used for a number of other activities.

For the purposes of soccer or other activities, the whole field could be used, or it could be divided for two activities taking place at the same time.

The country house is accessible from the wellness center but will also have a separate entrance with its own parking lot.

Jared Olson of HGM described the layout of the Wellness Center from the perspective of the front (west side) entrance from 16th Street North. To the left are the toilets and an open changing room. Also to the left is a cloakroom and some staff offices. To the right are a larger toilet and steps to the second level.

The senior center / multipurpose room would also be to the right of the main entrance, on the ground floor, further past the large washrooms. It will have a kitchen. Partitions will allow for different sized areas in the room.

The room would have a kitchen. Plans are for a walk-in freezer and walk-in coolers.

The floor would be hard surfaced instead of carpeted so that it could be cleaned more easily.

A hard surface multipurpose court would also be on the main level. The slide that was shown Wednesday night was set up for basketball, but the court can be edged for volleyball, pickle ball and other activities that can be played on a hard-surface court.

Movable and collapsible bleachers would be located at the sides of the pitch for spectators.

The second level of the wellness center would house aerobics equipment, strength-training equipment, an aerobics classroom, and a walking track that would follow the perimeter of the hard-surfaced court below.

On the southeast side of the second level would be an access entrance during times when the lower level of the wellness center would be closed. The facility will be built on the hill, so parking on the southeast side would be at the same level as the after-hours entrance.

The size of the walking track is currently proposed to be three lanes wide; the final configuration would be decided during the development of the construction drawings. Olson said the committee wanted to have space outside the track for people to stand while others use it.

The second floor is also where a children’s play area would be.

Olson pointed out that what was being presented were preliminary plans, not final plans. Input from Wednesday’s meeting and direction from the Wellness Center Committee will be required before the preliminary plans are 100% complete.

A master plan for the development of the whole area in the future was also presented. Read more about that in Tuesday’s Denison Bulletin.

Olson noted during the question and answer period that construction of the wellness center and field house is two or three years away from completion, if the project goes ahead, “the way whose construction is taking place,” he added.

Here are the questions asked and the answers. In some cases, questions could not be answered because the design did not reach a point where certain questions were answered. Hanson and Olson answered questions.

Read more questions and answers online at www.dbrnews.com and in Tuesday’s Denison Bulletin.

Q: What is the initial cost estimate?

A. At the moment, we don’t share the cost value because we still restrict the design.

Q: Will this be funded by city taxpayers?

A: The intent of the Wellness Committee is to seek funds (donations) and grants to pay for all costs. Right now that is our goal, so we have no intention of raising taxes.

Q: The golf course (possibly meaning Boulders Conference Center) was not supposed to use taxpayers’ money and now it is using taxpayers’ money.

A: The structure (Boulders) requires part of the general fund to be supported. With this year’s change, we hope that will change and sail the other way. (Chris Polley’s company leased the Boulders Conference Center minus the golf course pavilion space).

Q: How will you pay operating funds? Right now you can’t even fix the streets?

A: That’s a question I didn’t answer when I arrived (Hanson, who became city manager earlier this year). Staff are currently working on how we will find operating costs.

Q: How much will it cost someone to use the facility and where will that money go?

A: The Welfare Committee conducted a study which estimated that we would need 700 members at an annual cost of approximately $380 per family.

Q: Will we have to pay to use the senior center?

A: At this time, the intention is that if the senior center moves to the wellness center, seniors can enter and use the senior center and there is talk that once there , you can use the walking track and the fitness center at no extra cost, but it’s just under discussion at the moment.

Q: Meals are now served at the senior center. Will this continue?

A: Yes. I understand that’s what we’re working towards. We had a chat with your cook and asked her what kind of appliances she wanted – commercial or standard kitchen. She answered commercial and I think that’s what we learned during one of our appointments.

Ron Songer, the senior center manager, asked why the senior center was placed in the wellness center design in the first place.

Hanson replied, “From what I understand, the current facility is in very poor condition. We’re going to have to spend a lot of money on this facility and that’s why we potentially considered this move. In moving to this facility, if the council decides to do so, this room may be eligible for additional funding, a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant. Whereas if we try to renovate the current facility, it would probably cost more than this facility (just the multi-purpose room).

Think: You’re telling me you’re going to spend $1 million there (wellness center room), couldn’t you give $100,000 to upgrade the building?

Hanson: So when you walk through the building and look at the building, you have equipment that doesn’t work properly, the brick is falling off the building, the kitchen is also very compact. These are the comments. Again, if the council decides that’s where they want to move (the senior center). If they decide they don’t know what to do, it will be a multipurpose room. And these are just the main elements that we could see (along with the current senior center).

Q: How far is the parking lot from the senior center? Right now it’s not a far walk. Will parking for the senior center be reserved?

A. The front parking lot was shown on a slide.

Q. Will parking be reserved (for seniors)?

A. Using this front parking lot gives access right there (pointing to the parking lot on the slide). He does not say that he will be reserved. I don’t think we have that decision.

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