Agency on Aging chooses new digs
BUTLER TWP — The county Area Agency on Aging advisory board has chosen a location for its new offices, and it offers additional opportunities for use by seniors and the county.
At its Tuesday meeting, Leslie Osche, the county commissioners chairwoman, discussed a tour the commissioners, advisory board members, agency staff and other interested parties took of the four locations being considered for the agency's new offices.
The agency has been trying for several years to move its offices to an updated location, as the current office at the Sunnyview complex is plagued with mold, rodents and a backed-up sewer system that prevents workers from using some of the bathrooms.
Osche said the group toured St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church hall on Center Avenue in Butler, offices in the ground level of the Tier Garage in Butler, the Butler Health and Raquet Club on North Duffy Road in Butler Township and the YWCA in Butler.
Each member of the group was given a scoresheet containing the various items the agency is looking for in a new office, which included access to public transportation, parking, walk-up access, high visibility, space for a senior center, long-term possibilities and cost.
Butler Health and Raquet Club received the highest total score, Osche said.
Unlike the other three locations where the agency would lease space, the Butler Health and Raquet Club building and its 3 acres would be purchased by the county.
Advisory board member Michelle Edinger said she liked the idea that the building would be county-owned.
“We could go in there and do what we need to do to meet our needs,” she said. “It's not hidden in another building.”
Beth Herold, agency director, said the staff also favored the Butler Health and Raquet Club building.
She said other county departments could locate there, and departments at the county government center and courthouse could hold training events or other activities there as well.
Herold said a senior center at that location would mean seniors are near shopping, restaurants, salons and other businesses.
She said all four locations would require a fair amount of renovation to suit the agency's needs and accommmodate a senior center.
“Owning the building makes more sense than putting $1 million or $2 million into a building that we don't own,” Herold said.
She said the county parks and recreation department does not have an indoor venue for activities, and Osche said the county Department of Veterans Affairs might be a good fit for the building because it is in between the two Veterans Administration facilities.
Herold added that because it contains showers and a kitchen, the building could be used to house seniors in the event of a disaster like a fire or flooding.
“It's not just an Area Agency on Aging space,” Herold said. “It could be a real county space.”
She said the building also has patio space where seniors could enjoy the outdoors, and acreage where seniors could garden.
The advisory board voted unanimously to recommend the commissioners purchase the building, which is listed at $899,000. Osche said that amount is negotiable.
She said if the purchase is approved, the next step would be to hire an architectural firm to produce design drawings for renovation.
Osche said a ramped entrance, elevator, additional windows, new paving in the parking lot and other work will be needed if the county buys the building for the agency's use.
She said the county will likely have the design drawings completed by Stantec, an architectural and engineering firm that recently evaluated the county's office space and made recommendations for moving offices to create optimum efficiency.
Osche said the commissioners could vote on the purchase at its Oct. 6 meeting.
Also at the advisory board meeting, Herold said the Chicora Senior Center will be closed until Oct. 13 due to a staff member testing positive for COVID-19.She said it is the first senior center in the county to close due to a case of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.All those who were in contact with the staff member were notified, and the entire staff and all but two of the seniors who frequent the center are vaccinated.
Herold also said the agency is partnering with St. Andrews United Presbyterian Church in Butler to provide grab-and-go lunches for seniors.She said the program, which will begin in the third or fourth week in October, will allow seniors to pick up a lunch at the church, 201 E. Jefferson St., and bring it home to their high-rise apartment to enjoy.Senior centers in Butler are still not offering their usual lunches due to the coronavirus pandemic.