Millage to fund new Crawford County Commission on Aging and Grayling Senior Center building will be before voters next year
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Crawford County voters will decide a millage request to fund the purchase, renovation, and expansion of a building to house the Crawford County Commission on Aging (COA) and Grayling Senior Center this winter.
The millage to fund the $3 million project will be on the ballot as voters go to the primary presidential polls on Tuesday, March 10.
The COA has entered into a purchase agreement to buy the former Mayday Windows Building, located at 4388 M-72 West, possibly ending a decade and a half-plus search for a new home for the agency.
Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo said $2.2. million in bonds have been secured from USDA Rural Development for the project.
A total of $428,000 in bonds has been secured to purchase the building as well as a wooded lot located east of the building. A separate bond of over $1.7 million is also secured to renovate the building.
COA Director Alice Snyder said the only way the agency can make the payments on the bonds is with a millage approved by voters since there is not enough money in its annual operating budget to do so.
“The only way we’re going to be able to do this project is through voter support,” she said.
An 8,500 square foot addition to the building is part of the millage proposal for the possible location of a walking track and pickleball courts.
Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis.
But if Kirtland Community College officials move forward plans to build an event center and field house at their 4 Mile Road Campus, plans for the expansion may change.
“If the public will be able to go in and use that, it may be better from a taxpayer standpoint to have senior activities in that space,” Snyder said.
Possible services for the expansion may be an adult day care, which would provide respite care for loved ones caring for older adults, or to provide day care as caregivers have to work during the day.
Another consideration is providing adult day care and day care for children if there is still a need after the Crawford AuSable Day Care and Preschool opens its new facility near the Mt. Hope Lutheran Church next year.
“That would be a really neat intergenerational model to have, so that’s another piece to that research for adult day care if that would be a possibility to combine the two,” Snyder said.
The COA Board approved putting the millage before voters at its monthly meeting held on Tuesday, October 22.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners on Thursday, October 24, voted to have bond counsel draft the ballot language for the millage.
Snyder said March 10 was chosen because that was the earliest date the issue could go before voters. Otherwise, the COA would have to foot the bill for an election on another date, which would come at a high cost.
The COA will have to start making bond payments once the purchase of the Mayday Windows building is finalized.
The Mayday Windows building is 20 years old and has 12,000 square feet, double the space of the existing center, which is 5,500 square feet.
The COA has rented that space from the Grayling Housing Commission since 1973, the year the COA was founded.
COA staff are cramped in tight office space now, and there is no more space to bring on new staff to serve seniors.
There also is only one room where staff can meet with seniors regarding services such as Medicare insurance counseling to ensure their privacy.
The recreation room is too small to take in the amount of senior citizens who are coming in for fitness classes the COA is hosting.
The dining area is often booked, requiring other classes to be held off site.
“We can only have one or two things at the same time,” Snyder said.
There is also a lack of parking space for the safety of senior citizens on the well-traveled Lawndale Street from people going to surrounding apartment complexes.
“When we have a bigger event, we have people backing out into oncoming traffic,” Snyder said.
The COA serves all seniors in Crawford County, who live in various housing facilities or their own homes. A small number of senior citizens who live in Grayling Housing Commission apartments located adjacent to the senior center are active in COA programs.
“Not everybody that lives in Grayling Housing Commission housing is not necessarily an older adult,” Snyder said. “When you look at the number of people that come in for meals and activities, less than four percent of them live here at the complex.”
Snyder vowed that COA staff will work with senior citizens who do not have direct access to the senior center to get them to the new location.
“If there is anything we can do to make that better or to lessen that impact, we’ll try to do it,” she said.
If voters do not give the millage a thumbs up, COA officials would have to go back to the planning table to consider other options.
“If for some reason that millage doesn’t pass, I doubt we will be able to afford to keep that building, and we will turn right around and put in on the market and sell it,” Snyder said.