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Concord receives Erie County grant for new senior center on Waverly Street

CONCORD — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced that the town of Concord received $100,000 for the construction of a new senior center, as one of nine municipal projects included in the Erie County Consortium 2014 Community Development Block Grant application. The application, which will be submitted to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval, recommends a total Erie County expenditure of $1,023,172 for the projects, an investment which will leverage $2,022,298 in local funds and in-kind resources.

“The Community Development Block Grant awards are meant to spur communities to invest in projects that improve the infrastructure and quality of life, in our cities and towns. These funds, leveraged with other funding secured by the municipalities involved, provide the impetus for improvements all around Erie County,” said Poloncarz. “As I said in my ‘Initiatives for a Smart Economy’ address, CDBG funds serve a critical role in revitalizing our area, and I look forward to the completion of the projects listed for 2014.”

The Erie County Consortium consists of 34 municipalities, generally located outside of the city of Buffalo and the first-ring suburbs. The selected projects are targeted toward a variety of municipal building improvements, public infrastructure and park improvements, which primarily benefit low- and moderate-income residents.

According to Concord Town Supervisor Gary Eppolito, the local senior center project “seems to be moving along” and is scheduled to go to bid within the next few months.

The concept of a local senior center is not a new one, according to the supervisor.

“Originally, we were using the [Lucy Benseley Center] but it was way too small,” Eppolito said. “We looked all around, and ended up back at the town hall.”

Seniors groups currently meet at the town hall for many activities and meetings, but Eppolito said that although he

“could live with it,” something had to be done, before long.

“The main problem is the elevator,” he said. “It was installed in 1979, and the manufacturer doesn’t exist anymore. There’s no parking, the bathrooms are on the basement floor, it’s cold in the winter and there’s no air in the summer and if there was ever a problem, evacuating seniors would be a real problem. The fact that we needed something was obvious.”

Eppolito looked at several buildings and properties around the area, including the Waverly Street property on which the People Inc. Orchard Senior Living facility is now located.

“There was a legal glitch and we couldn’t close,” Eppolito said, of that land. “The committee talked it over and we did a swap and took the property next to it, at no extra cost.”

The town closed on that property in July 2012, and began pursuing grants, making plans and talking to organizers of other local senior centers, to get ideas about what the Springville facility needed.

Eppolito visited centers in North Collins, West Seneca, Elma and Orchard Park and “learned a lot,” he said. “We didn’t want the senior center Taj Mahal.”

The supervisor also didn’t want the building to impact the town’s tax rate, but he said the timing is right in that sense, as well.

“Financially, we’re just about done paying off library bonds [for the Hulbert Library], so we can take the money from those and move it to the senior center. That way, there’s not a major impact on the tax rate.”

The new center will be located on Waverly Street, and Eppolito said he “wouldn’t mind keeping it in the center of the village.

“The majority of seniors drive or get driven,” he said. “Let’s be real: It’s still in the village. And this was the right site for our needs.”

Because of the acreage adjacent to the new spot, there is potential for expansion, as time goes on, including the potential for adult daycare, similar to what is available at the East Aurora senior center.

As it stands, the new senior center will be a one-story facility with 88 parking spaces, companion bathrooms, a commercial kitchen, office space, a portico for outside recreation, one large meeting room, two smaller rooms and the ability for seniors to take charge of programs they want to see, at the new facility. It can accommodate up to 140 people.

The building will look similar to the People Inc. apartments, to create a sense of continuity, according to Eppolito. MDA Consulting Engineers, PLLC, formerly known as Mark D. Alianello, PE, Consulting Engineer, is in charge of the plans.

“One lady wanted a community garden and I said, ‘Sure. Whatever you want.’ The seniors I’ve spoken to are very excited. People don’t realize that a quarter of our town is older than 55. One reason we got the CDBG grant is, as that population continues to age, we’re going to need more services. We’re hoping to have more clubs, movie days, events.”

Although the Springville Concord Elder Network is not involved in the construction of the center, Eppolito said the local senior organization has been invited to participate, and may have an office at the facility.

“It just doesn’t make sense not to have it,” Eppolito said. “And to be honest, we [Concord Town Board] are an aging board and we want to use it too. I’m excited about it, even for myself.”

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