Belmont Senior Services Coordinator David Hacker says the agency has no plans to close any of the county's 10 local senior centers, but he would like to provide more services to area seniors from a renovated Hab Center building in St. Clairsville.
The issue of building one central facility to provide senior services and eliminating neighborhood senior centers was discussed at this week's Belmont County Commission meeting.
"I am absolutely not a proponent of having one center in the county," Hacker said. "But I am a proponent for having one center that offers things they are not able to offer at other centers. We have dedicated seniors who go to their (neighborhood) centers each day, and by closing them we would lose people. ... I have been flooded with calls by seniors who are afraid they will lose their centers. They are set in their routine, and driven by their routine."
As many as 925 meals a day are prepared by Belmont Senior Services in this kitchen in the Oakview Building in St. Clairsville. The agency hopes to soon move into a larger kitchen in a renovated Hab Center.
Hacker, though, said the agency would like to offer seniors some services they presently don't get at their local senior center, and Belmont Senior Services would like to create a "senior hub" at the renovated Hab Center in St. Clairsville. The location could serve as a place where seniors could go for such amenities as an exercise center, technology classes and large scale senior events.
County commissioners have set aside $2 million for construction or improvements to senior centers across the county. A total of $1.5 million of the amount is earmarked for renovations and construction of a centralized kitchen for senior meals at the Hab Center, while $250,000 is designated for the building of new senior center in Flushing, and another $250,000 for a senior center in St. Clairsville.
Belmont Senior Services prepares between 875 to 925 meals for area seniors each day in its kitchen in the Oakview building. That space is smaller than most home kitchens, Hacker said. Six cooks work in the area, and he said a much larger area is needed.
He anticipates moving the Belmont Senior Services' kitchen to the renovated Hab Center, as well as its other operations currently housed in the Oakview building. These include personal and homemaking services and medical transportation for seniors, as well as the Belmont Senior Services administrative offices.
"Our facility is not appropriate for anything," Hacker said of the Oakview building. "Ours is the only agency left here, and the building is not ADA compliant. It doesn't provide any space for events, or for seniors to engage with staff."
Most of Belmont County's senior centers don't have exercise facilities, and Hacker said building an exercise center in the Hab Center appropriate for the specific needs of seniors would be a good use of dollars.
"We're also interested in building a technology center," Hacker said. "There are a lot of seniors interested in technology and iPad use. We can't offer technology classes at all centers, but we can at one center."