By JOSH NEWTON
Community members will gather Thursday to celebrate completion of one round of renovations and expansions at the Tahlequah Senior Citizens Center.
Community Development Block Grants will account for about $200,000 worth of renovations in the first and second phase of the work, with the city of Tahlequah chipping in the remainder of the half-million-dollar project.
Phase 1 introduces the senior center to new flooring that is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. There’s also new pantry space, and expanded dining capacity, and a closet for use by the Meals On Wheels program.
According to Tahlequah Planning and Development Director Doug Moore, the first phase of construction produced a room that will ultimately house a couple of billiards tables, plus a second room for board meetings, exercise programs, or other gatherings.
The state’s testing facility for new drivers, which is currently housed on the west side of the building, will be moving into a new area attached to the senior citizens building. City officials have said the room now used for testing drivers will be returned to its original function as a library for the senior citizens.
State officials also plan to ask permission to have testing for drivers more times each week because of their new space.
While Phase 1 is complete, the second phase is set to begin soon, and has an estimated completion date of 120 days from kick-off. Moore said the senior citizens building will remain open during the construction, though there may be some inconveniences throughout the process.
Moore said the center’s kitchen could be closed for about a month as the floor is broken up and new drains are installed.
“The work in the kitchen will help make the floor ADA-compliant,” said Moore.
Work will also be done on the kitchen’s large serving window and nearby doors to help make the kitchen more secure, and to provide a serving table in compliance with ADA regulations.
While the kitchen may close for about a month, Moore has been told plans are in place for the meal programs to continue with help from off-site kitchens.
Perhaps the largest project of the next phase will involve replacing two existing heating and air units and installing new ductwork. The kitchen – which currently shares a unit with the original dining area of the center – will be placed on its own unit, Moore said.
The center’s stage will be remodeled to become ADA-compliant. Inside the building’s existing dining area, new lighting and ceiling tiles will be installed – primarily on evenings and weekends – and the pre-existing interior walls will be painted to match the new addition.
An existing women’s bathroom will be remodeled and brought up-to-date, Moore said, while the men’s bathroom will be expanded and made ADA-compliant.
“We also want to put automatic doors on the front of the senior citizens center,” said Moore. “These will be the type of doors that are opened with the push of a button.”
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