Use Huffman School for seniors: group
As town council weighs whether to go ahead with a new subdivision at the site of the former Huffman School, a local seniors’ group is suggesting another use for the building: a temporary second location to the Sister Kennedy Centre.
Fort Frances Seniors of the Sister Kennedy Centre Advisory Committee has submitted a proposal to the town, and will make a formal presentation during the regular council meeting next Monday (March 25).
It also will allow for strategies in the town’s strategic plan for seniors to be met immediately, rather than having to wait for funding to build an addition onto the current Sister Kennedy Centre, which could cost up to $3 million.
Bedard noted these are “tough economic times,” and the likelihood of building this addition “is extremely remote, to say the least, and many years away from fruition due to our declining tax base dollars.”
His report outlined many reasons the existing building is suitable for a second centre for seniors, including:
•the building is a landmark in the community, and could be designated a heritage building;
•the building is not in disrepair and appears to be in good shape, inside and out (i.e., the basement is sound and dry, the roof isn’t leaking, and there are no violations of the Building Code that would prevent it being used);
•the building can be occupied now at minimal cost (i.e., water and sewer services already are hooked up to the property, and the electrical services are modern and compliant for the intended use of the building);
•the building is all on one level, which makes it accessible for seniors to enter and exit, and attractive and safe for seniors’ activities (there are plenty of rooms on the main floor, with appropriate office space for administration);
•the entrances to the building are large and accommodating for seniors, with safe flat entrance pads leading up to all doors;
•the building has a fire alarm system and proper emergency exits, and is central to all
emergency services; and
•the building has adequate parking and there currently is plenty of open space around the building (i.e., usage of the building and parking lot would not be intrusive to the residential area).
The facility could be used for many activities and services, such as hosting dances, holding Tai Chi and Zumba classes and having an exercise room, hosting arts and crafts classes and having an art display room for seniors’ artwork, holding workshops and seminars, and holding community events (including the senior games).
It also could house a coffee shop, an advocacy office to help seniors with senior issues, a computer technology centre, and a senior health-care information centre, as well as work in conjunction with local businesses to provide haircuts/hairdressing.
Bedard noted there are several economic reasons why it would be a good idea to use the old Huffman School as a second location for seniors.
Not having to tear down the building to sell for housing lots would save the town—and taxpayers—money. But there still would be enough space around the school to sell for some housing lots, he reasoned.
The building would attract new seniors to the centre, thus creating more activities and meeting the needs of seniors within the community as outlined by the town’s strategic plan adopted for seniors.
As well, it could hold opportunities to produce revenue.
“This building can be good for everyone’s pocketbook, inclusive of all taxpayers,” Bedard wrote.
Cleaning of the building would be handled by the building’s users, until such a time when there’s enough revenue in place to hire someone.
Looking ahead at the long-term cost of building an addition at the Sister Kennedy Centre, Bedard said the advisory committee will look into several government funding sources, and if need be, use reserve funds or fundraising.
“These financial options make it attractive to council and all community seniors,” concluded Bedard.
“With little effort and with a willingness to promote this change, it can and will happen.
“Saying ‘no’ is easy,” he added. “Saying ‘yes’ allows the community seniors a golden opportunity that meets council’s initiatives set forth in the strategic plan and the new initiatives already adopted by the Sister Kennedy board.”