Designs approved for new senior center

Kendra Thompson presented designs for the new senior center at the monthly Manistee County Council on Aging meeting on Tuesday. (Jane Bond/News Advocate)

Kendra Thompson presented designs for the new senior center at the monthly Manistee County Council on Aging meeting on Tuesday. (Jane Bond/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — The Manistee County Council on Aging approved two motions that will get the ball rolling on the development of a new senior center at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The council is in the process of purchasing St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Shrine, located at St. Mary’s Parkway in Manistee. The focus of Tuesday’s meeting was to move forward on the design for the new senior center, known as the Wagoner Center.

The council is working closely with Divine Mercy Parish, the Manistee Catholic community, to close on the building and surrounding property (approximately 13 acres) and is expected to complete the process by the beginning of next year.

“There will be a final mass held in December, and from there the church will be decommissioned,” said Sarah Howard, executive director of the Manistee Senior Center.

A diocesan bishop can request to relegate a church to profane use when a closed parish church will no longer be used for that purpose, and a decree for the relegation of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine was recently issued.

The Manistee County Council on Aging is in the process of purchasing St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine from Divine Mercy Parish. The building will become the new senior center. (News Advocate file photo)

The Manistee County Council on Aging is in the process of purchasing St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine from Divine Mercy Parish. The building will become the new senior center. (News Advocate file photo)

The council is purchasing the building for the price of the closing costs, which Howard estimates is around $10,000. She said the council agreed to give the church half of the sale of the property across the street if they ever elected to sell it.

According to the decree, the relegation of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine was due to financial burden for repair and maintenance, as well as lack of parochial resources and a shortage of clergy to tend to the building.

The decree was posted in the St. Joseph Church and on the website of the Diocese of Gaylord to provide official notice of the transition.

“It’s really an incredible gift, and something that will benefit this community for generations to come,” she said. “We needed a vote to say yes, the council is willing to move forward.”

Kendra Thompson from Kendra Thompson Architects presented the design for the Wagoner Center renovations, which will occur in three stages. The first two phases involve the spaces which will primarily be used, including what is currently the parish center and the church proper.

“Our development will include creating the construction drawings and bidding documents and getting the construction billed out for phase one and two, and then we’ll progress to phase three if and when we get to that point,” said Thompson.

The first phase would include the renovations to the outside of the building, including roof repairs, exterior paint, and resurfacing the parking lots. There would be an additional driveway added to provide direct access for shipping and receiving, primarily utilized by Meals on Wheels.

“Our focus is to get the kitchen ready, which is the Meals on Wheels space. We’ll be renovating that, and will set in a new walk-in freezer.”

A large portion of the kitchen equipment will be taken from the previous Senior Center, along with the equipment that the Iron Works Cafe donated in October.

“The remaining areas in the phase one section include office space and several multi-purpose rooms that will have movable partitions to adjust to any size group,” said Thompson. “There is a stage that will be removed. We also have a shop space for woodshop and other functions there.”

The second phase will focus on renovations of the church proper, which will create a dining area as well as more office space and multi-purpose rooms.

“As it’s currently shown, there can be approximately 100 people served,” said Thompson. “We want to create a space that’s comfortable for days where there are smaller groups, while still being able to adapt for the big events.”

Thompson said the third phase is in its conceptual stage, but would allow the council to create senior housing or an adult daycare along with more office space.

The cost projection for the first two phases is approximately $3 million, according to Thompson.

“On that number is built in the cost of that work as well as a 30% contingency. We are carrying $616,000 of contingency dollars,” she said. “That’s a lot, but we’re early on in the process. They won’t be spent if we don’t need them, but it gives a level of protection as the project continues.”

Several members of the council expressed concern for the costs of the project, which is estimated to be $4 million for all three phases.

“I know the people in this community can be tight with giving out a millage, let alone something that looks like it will be a $4 million project here,” said Marlene McBride, board member. “I’m very nervous that there’s so many groups in the community wanting a piece of that pie, and how much we’re going to be able to get.”

Howard said the council has been waiting to approve the designs before moving forward with plans for raising funds.

“If we start fundraising and don’t get enough, I don’t want the next generations to have to be paying for this,” said McBride. “We have to start getting some funding in to make sure we’re on track and going down the river in a boat, not a log.”

The Council on Aging enlisted the help of Mark Sandstedt from MS Creative Services to help with the project, and he felt it was important for the council to come to an agreement in order to move forward.

“You aren’t going to get anything without asking for it,” he said. “There are a lot of worthy causes in the community especially for a community our size. We have one chance to do this right, and that’s the crossroads we’re at right now.”

Sandstedt felt an important part of the project is ensuring the community is on board.

“Anyone that has spent time at the Senior Center can see the need, but it’s about informing the public too,” he said. “There is a tremendous need, and it is growing. We’ve identified a solution for that need, and now it’s a matter of raising the money to make it happen.”

McBride made the motion to approve the design as presented, which was seconded by board member Mary Kaye Wilkosz. The council unanimously approved the motion.

After much discussion, the board also unanimously approved a motion made by Wilkosz to authorize Thompson to proceed with the construction documents.

The council intends to seek grant money to jump-start the fundraising stage.

“There are foundations out there nationwide that benefit these kinds of projects, and it boils down to where they are at in their grant cycle,” said Sandstedt. “Tomorrow starts today. The time to start looking is now.”

Howard said the Council on Aging is still trying to sell the current Senior Center building.

“We had three interested buyers, but the one we had lined up recently backed out,” she said. “It’s a great space that you can use right away, unlike some of the spaces downtown that needs a lot of help.”

Council on Aging meeting are open to the public. The next meeting is at 2 p.m. on Nov. 27 at the Dial A Ride building, located at 180 Memorial Drive.

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