Pascagoula senior center complete, but opening awaits parking and landscaping work

Senior Center2.JPG  The 11,000-square-foot senior center is seen last week. For safety reasons, it cannot open until a parking lot and landscaping are complete, which is expected in late summer or early fall. The $4 million project was funded by state and federal grants, which were released at different times.

Senior center1.JPG  Darcie Crew, the city’s recreation director, talks about the center’s amenities last week in the building’s fitness center, which was made possible in part thanks to a partnership with Singing River Hospital Systems.

PASCAGOULA

The city’s new senior center has been finished since December, but it will be at least August before parking and landscaping are completed, allowing seniors to finally move in.

That’s because the site work is being funded by a $1.2 million grant being administered by the Mississippi Development Authority, which is waiting for the Department of Environmental Quality to approve the contractor’s drainage and erosion control plan, said Jaci Turner, city projects director.

That is expected “any day now,” she said, with construction starting in several weeks.

In January, the city awarded a contract for parking and landscaping to G.T. Development & Contracting LLC of Pascagoula.

Jackie Grimes, president, said the company has about five months, or 150 days, to complete the project and “is ready to go.”

He said he has already negotiated deals to buy asphalt and concrete to guard against prices potentially rising.

Turner pointed out that the five-month time frame does not take into account rain days, so the project could stretch into the fall.

Although completion of the building was originally slated for November, the city never announced a grand opening date, Turner said. The building was completed in December.

“It was a phased project due to the grants — some of the building grants had to be expended by certain dates,” she said.

State and federal grants the city received at different times over the past two years are funding the $4 million project.

“Typically you don’t want two contracts going on at the same time, with contractors on top of one another,” Turner said, adding that the building had to be finished before money could be released for the parking and landscaping.

The city, meanwhile, is maintaining a $3 million insurance policy that costs taxpayers $12,208 annually. It expires in June, when the city will renew it.

Built to resemble an old Southern home with wide back porches and tall ceilings, the 11,000-square-foot center is about three times as large as the center on Delmas Avenue.

It includes a large multipurpose room with a stage and walking track, exercise room, game room, commercial kitchen, and arts and crafts room.

Last week, new furniture, exercise equipment and a pool table — among other items — were stored their various rooms. Wreaths were stacked on shelves in the arts and crafts room, ready to be adorned.

Darcie Crew, recreation director, said the city plans to introduce some programs that will allow school-age children to use the center at times.

Having parking and landscaping is critical to opening the center, Crew said.

“We can’t expect our senior adults to park on a dirt road and walk through construction debris,” she said.

Melanie Caver, senior center director, said the current space is sufficient for some programs but cramped for others.

After waiting more than 15 years for a new center, Caver said the center’s approximately 700 members are willing to wait a little longer.

“We’re patient, and we know projects involving grants take time,” she said.

By Kaija Wilkinson

News from The Mississippi Press 

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