Thursday, 22 August 2013 00:00
The recent debate over how best to address the need to improve the facilities available to our seniors has surfaced a range of ideas and opinions. Users of the Golf Club Lane facility, understandably and correctly, have pointed out that the property is showing its age. Users have also argued that the facility is too small to accommodate all of the seniors who seek to use the center. Others, including some seniors, have pointed out that the number of regular users of the facility – estimated to be around 100 – although vocal, is a small percentage of the 6,000+ seniors in the village. They have questioned whether there is a compelling need to add to the village’s borrowings to expand the facilities.
This divergence of views is the hallmark of an involved and engaged community. Against this backdrop, the board of trustees has been considering various options. In doing so, we have tried to balance both short-term needs and prudent long-term planning. And we have also done so mindful of the important contributions to our village that have been, and continue to be, made by our seniors.
Although the board of trustees has made no final decisions with regard to the Golf Club Lane facility, there is agreement among a substantial majority of the trustees that renovating and expanding the facility makes sense for the following reasons:
•As noted above, it has not been updated or enhanced for years, and it is showing its age.
•Prudent planning requires that we anticipate the needs of a growing senior population.
•The facility already serves as a meeting place, primarily in the evenings, for non-senior groups such as Property Owners’ Associations; renovation and expansion has the potential to benefit these other groups as well.
•And, as we learned during Sandy, properly prepared and fortified village facilities can serve as a place of refuge for our residents during emergencies.
Preliminary renovation and expansion plans and very rough cost estimates were prepared in 2012. Last week, several trustees met with Kevin Ocker and the architect to discuss those preliminary plans. Based on that meeting, we have asked the architect to update the plans. Among other things, he has been asked to increase the size of the proposed expansion by an additional 40 feet or so, and to modify the front access to the building. This would allow for a larger lounge area, a better positioning of the bathrooms, increased storage and a larger kitchen. We have also asked him to consider an enhanced patio and outdoor barbecue setup, a built in generator for emergency service, and input from the recreation commission and senior advisory group. We hope to have these plans completed in the next 30 days with the objective of putting the project out to bid within approximately 60 days, subject to appropriate discussion and approval at a public board of trustees meeting. At the same time, we will have counsel draw up the necessary bond paperwork. We currently anticipate that the costs to finance the renovation and expansion over a 10-year period will average less than $100,000 per year – a small fraction of 1 percent of our current village budget.
In summary, we think the net result of these efforts will be a facility that delivers on our commitment to our seniors for a first class senior center. We also think it will be a facility that, when not used for senior activities, can serve the needs of other village groups. And finally, with the foresight informed by the Sandy experience, we believe that this investment will increase our emergency preparedness for the benefit of all residents.
As we publicly stated, in the course of considering how best to meet the needs of our seniors, there has been some preliminary exploration of whether the Garden City Casino, which already serves as the site of activities for seniors, could play a larger role in meeting those needs. The casino is owned by the village. It has been leased to a private organization for many years under the terms of an agreement that requires the organization to maintain the property. Informal conversations have suggested that declining membership of the casino organization is impacting its ability to keep up with the needs of a structure that is well over 100 years old. As stewards of this public asset, the board of trustees has a responsibility to make sure that the property is both properly and fully maintained and is utilized in a way that is consistent with its public ownership. Initial conversations have sought to clarify the utilization rates for the Casino, with a view to whether the building – not the tennis facilities – could be used to help meet other community needs, including the needs of our seniors, without meaningfully displacing current village users. Regardless of renovation plans for the Golf Club Lane facility, we intend to continue those discussions and to take all necessary steps to make sure that we maintain the value of this asset for the benefit of all village residents.
- The Public Information Committee of the Garden City Board of Trustees