By Kevin Kelley
Ten events last month at the city’s center for community services were so popular they drew waiting lists, department Director Joyce Able Schroth said.
“It is not unusual to see a wait list for many of our activities,” Schroth told City Council members at a June 18 committee meeting.
Formerly known as the senior center, the community services center has outgrown its 15,000-square-foot facility on Center Ridge Road next to the city-owned Meadowood Country Club, Schroth said. Schroth told council members that she was not a wide-eyed dreamer, but would like to see the city construct a new, 23,000-square-foot center to accommodate the city’s growing number of older adults.
The most popular events at the center are the monthly luncheon and free movie presentations, Schroth said. Nearly 3,500 individuals, from Westlake and beyond, are registered with the center. Schroth said 844 persons attended at least one of the center’s activities in May.
Ideally, Schroth said, a new center would be a one-level facility that would be easier for seniors to navigate. Schroth suggested the city-owned land just west of Westlake Porter Public Library be the new center’s location.
The question of whether to construct a new center is being addressed because the main section of the current building is 50 years old and has serious maintenance needs. Deputy Public Service Director Chris Stuhm told council that a portion of the masonry at the east end of the building is deteriorating due to water infiltration.
City leaders need to decide whether to spend significant amounts of money in maintaining the current building or instead put the money toward the construction of a new facility.
Stuhm said one approach would be to spend $75,000 over five to seven years to address the masonry problems. A second, more extensive solution would be to extend the roof at the east end in an effort to reduce water damage, he said. That approach is estimated to cost $300,000.
Construction of a new facility would cost approximately $7 million, city engineer Bob Kelly reported.
Mayor Dennis Clough said he would not recommend spending $7 million at this time on a new facility, but believes the city needs to look at the issue.
“I think it’s worth a discussion,” the mayor told council members.
Clough noted Schroth’s suggestion that, at some point, the issue be put before Westlake voters on a ballot issue containing an as-yet-unspecified funding mechanism for a new facility.
The entire question is complicated by possible changes at the city’s recreational facilities. In January, the consulting arm of the National Golf Foundation recommended the city close one of three courses at its Meadowood Golf Course and replace it with a driving range and practice facility. The recreation department has hired a firm to prepare plans for executing the recommendation, although no final decision has been made.
The recreation department is also planning to prepare a master plan for its facilities; work on that project will begin this fall, with a final report due next summer or fall, said Mike Rump, the city’s director of recreation.
If a new community services center is built at the city’s recreation department on Hilliard Boulevard, the recreation and community services department could share the facility and staff, Rump said. But a new facility at the rec center location would likely need to be more than one floor, Kelly said.
Council President Mike Killeen said more study of the issue was needed, although he favored the rec center location if a new community services center is to be built. Any vote asking residents to pay for a new facility would be at least two years away, the council president concluded.
The consensus among council members was that the issue needed further study. In the meantime, council directed the Clough administration to spend money on maintenance at the current facility as needed.
Schroth said the current facility, which was originally used by the country club before it was acquired by the city, has many nice features. Its five meeting rooms are different sizes, giving the building a homey feel, she said.
“It’s not an institutional building,” Schroth told West Life.
An addition, consisting of mostly offices and a meeting room, was opened in 2004. Although the building has an elevator, it holds events on three levels, a situation Schroth said is not ideal for seniors. Architects have told the city that any further additions would be difficult to build due to the grade of the property, she said.
Schroth, who has served as community services director for 14 years, said she was pleased that all councilmen agreed her department needs more space for its activities.
“We’re really just looking for space,” Schroth told council.