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Center expansion moves forward

June 12, 2013 - Local seniors need more space, according to Ken Elwert, Independence Township Parks Recreation and Seniors director.

At the June 4 Independence Township Board of Trustees meeting, senior center representatives asked for the go-ahead to continue raising funds for a 24,000-square-foot addition to the existing building at 6000 Clarkston Road in Clintonwood Park.

The motion to move forward with the addition was approved by the board.

"We want to have a shovel in the ground by January 2014," said Carolyn Morrison, vice president of Friends of the Senior Center.

Seniors have already raised $150,000 through fund raising, community donations, and an anonymous donation through a local foundation to build the addition. An additional $150,000 is needed to complete the project.

"The expansion would add additional office space and a large room for meeting space," Elwert said.

The $300,000 expansion to the Senior Center would be large enough to accommodate seniors for the next 5-10 years.

According to SEMCOG Community Profile of Independence Township, the senior population doubled from 2000 to 2010, and will more than double again by the next census in 2020.

Presently, there are 800 members at the center, and many activities require a waiting list to attend.

Options on the table include an addition to the current location or building a new center on four acres of property owned by the township. The $300,000 addition would be adequate for the next 5-10 years, while a new building would serve for 15-20 years, Elwert said.

Funding remains an issue. The addition to the existing location would cost $300,000 while a new building carries a $1 million price tag. A new building on the township property is just a dream, he said.

"Unless a donor stepped up and made about a $200,000 donation," Elwert said. "Then we would immediately look at building a new facility."

But seniors need the space now, Morrison said.

"Asking for $150,000 is a lot better than asking for $1 million," she said.

The seniors' desire for a new senior center is not new. In 2006, voters rejected a proposal for a new senior center building and operational millage. In 2007, the current building was constructed, funded by the Independence Township general fund and through grants. Several contractors and volunteers also helped decrease the cost through donating time and materials. Elwert said the current location was built with a future expansion in mind.

During the June 4 meeting, several trustees raised concerns about a parking issue at the current center in the spring and summer when softball season is in session.

"My biggest problem is with adding that much space, but still having a problem with parking," said Treasurer Paul Brown.

Morrison said fixing the parking situation would require a creative solution, which could include paving the gravel parking lot in the park.

For more information about activities at the Senior Center, call 248-625-8231.

Staff writer
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