By SEAN ROWLEY
Members of the community gathered Friday evening at the Tahlequah Senior Citizens Center to celebrate the completion of its expansion and renovation.
The second phase of work on the center at 230 E. First St. created more room to host activities for area seniors. Phase I, which expanded pantry space, dining capacity and a closet for use by Meals on Wheels, was completed in March.
Faye Wisely, who frequents the center and was present at the weekly Friday dance, said the renovations improved the atmosphere.
“I am most impressed by the cleanliness,” she said. “It smells much better in here. The new paint on the walls helps make the place much more bright.”
Mayor Jason Nichols said the Senior Center, open since the 1970s, had long needed a series of upgrades.
“The first issue was simply capacity,” he said. “It was bursting at the seams, but now there is more room. Furthermore, there were no (Americans with Disability Act) regulations in the ‘70s, so the building was not handicap-accessible.”
The renovation, which cost nearly $500,000, also addressed safety issues, some of which were discovered during the site work.
“There were a couple of electrical problems and we discovered mold in one place,” Nichols said.
“The replacement of the HVAC system will also enhance safety. The old air conditioning system was so overworked that condensation sometimes formed on the kitchen floor and created a hazard.”
Artist Poole, who has been coming to the center more often in recent years, found much to enjoy about the changes.
“The renovations are wonderful,” she said. “I like the walls, the floor, the fitness room – the treadmill is my favorite.”
Facility restrooms were remodeled and made ADA-compliant and a second set of restrooms was constructed. The floor and ceiling were renovated.
With the additional space, many who attended Friday’s dance anticipate the center hosting more events.
“This is a much better facility,” said Jimmy Watts, who welcomed seniors as they arrived. “We will have our dances here every Friday for all ages.”
The building is also the temporary home of the local Oklahoma driver testing center.
“We are very proud of this new facility,” Nichols said. “This was a much-needed set of renovations. I know they caused some inconveniences while they were going on, but it paid off in the long run. This is a nice building for recreation and eating meals.”