More than 100 people crowded into the room, most of them with gray hair. Canes, hearing aids and wheelchairs were scattered throughout the audience. Almost immediately, they resolved...
More than 100 people crowded into the room, most of them with gray hair. Canes, hearing aids and wheelchairs were scattered throughout the audience.
Almost immediately, they resolved concerns about whether they would have anything to say about how their senior center might be changed. In fact, they could scarcely contain themselves.
“We need an elevator,” said one.
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“More parking,” said another.
“Something for the hard of hearing. We need the acoustics fixed,” said another.
The comments were part of a process that could result in substantial improvements to the Everett Senior Activity Center, 3025 Lombard Ave.
The city is gathering information on the center and conducted two forums last week to learn whether senior citizens or anyone else would have much to say. A day before the forums, a center staff member speculated that two people might attend.
Instead, a crafts room was filled with people raptly watching a presentation by Ken Ballard, the president of Ballard*King & Associates, a Colorado consulting firm hired to help plan a new center.
His photos showed senior centers in Golden, Colo., and Mesa, Ariz., depicting how centers could have swimming pools and solariums, amenities that could make turning gray almost a pleasure.
Then Ballard asked questions, like why people used the Everett center:
“It’s a place to hang out, socialize.”
He asked whether anyone had visited other senior centers, and a woman volunteered that she had on trips.
“None of them are as good as ours,” she said, and the audience applauded.
Then Ballard asked about possible improvements. They gave him a list that included an elevator, more parking, better acoustics, an expansion, a bigger stage, a sauna, a thrift shop, a gymnasium and a large multipurpose room.
A couple of issues drew the most attention, however.
One was to buy motel property next door for a possible expansion, a proposal discussed in the past. The second was the possibility the center might move.
“If you are looking at moving the facility, and most of us are afraid you are, we all want wonderful things, but we do not want to move,” one woman said.
Mayor Ray Stephanson assured the crowd that will not happen.
“I heard loud and clear that you want to stay at this site,” he said. “I have no interest in moving it. I’m committed to keeping you here.”
Under the terms of an agreement through which the property for the center was donated to the city in the 1970s, Stephanson added, it can’t be used for anything except senior activities.
Stephanson said the city intends to continue discussions about acquiring the motel property.
Aside from the forums, Ballard explained that other steps in generating improvement ideas will include collecting demographic information through a survey that will provide solid information about the senior population, including how many there are and where they come from.
That survey could be done by late February, he said.
After that will come more analysis and eventual decisions about what steps might be taken.
Stephanson said there’s no money for major improvements now.
“Practically speaking, we’re not likely to have all the amenities you see in these slides,” he said.
However, that doesn’t mean improvements aren’t likely, he said, citing a new downtown children’s museum, which opened in October and was built largely with $4.7 million in private money, as an example of what might be done.
Stephanson suggested that such a success might be duplicated for the city’s senior citizens, not just its children, and said other financial possibilities exist.
“We could consider a bond issue and tell our story to the public,” he said.
Ballard doesn’t know what recommendations might result from the information gathering.
“There’s a lot of different ways it can come out,” he said. “We’re trying to expand people’s minds in terms of what’s possible.”
Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or firstname.lastname@example.org