Senior Services building a model of cooperation
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The new year will see the new $6 million Senior Services administrative building and social hall become a reality — and with more efficient services for Belmont County seniors.
The Times Leader spoke to officials, Senior Services Administration, and the joint project architects of Breisch & Crowley LLC and GreenCore Designs Inc., who discussed the project and what it will mean for the future of the county.
Jeremy Greenwood, architect with GreenCore Designs Inc., said construction started August 2015 will be finished in January. The staff should move in by February. He said inventive forms of construction were part of the very early planning process and have seen their fruition in the nearly-completed building.
He pointed out the building was constructed using insulated concrete forms, which involve pouring concrete into the foam mold. Drywall is then screwed on top.
“It saves time, materials and labor,” Greenwood said, pointing out other advantages.
“The building is going to be super-insulated and super-tight. It’s going to be very energy-efficient for the county. It will probably be one of the most energy-efficient buildings the county owns,” he said.
“We super-insulated the roof,” he said, noting many area’s boast metal roofing, as well as a white, rubber-based roof membrane that will repel the sun’s radiation. “It will actually help save on overall energy cost for the building.”
He noted the Senior Services Center has taken shape after the conceptual image on a sign by the road. The building is one story on the grade and includes a walk-out basement below.
Greenwood noted that on initial analysis of the building site, they elected to construct the building further back from the road. The sloping grade allowed for a walk-out basement for additional storage and future expansion. In addition, they were able to incorporate the needs of emergency services. A fire hydrant was added near the access road.
Visitors to the new building will be greeted by the sight of a stenciled outline of the state and the state seal on the polished concrete floor.
The administrative wing will boast more spacious and technologically-efficient working conditions for staff. One of the key additions is a multi-purpose room, which will provide a space for the social and instructive events that are popular with seniors. It will no longer necessary to rent other facilities for activities.
The multi-purpose room is spacious with an abundance of windows and a view of Oakview’s eponymous oak tree.
“We tried to make it as welcoming as possible,” Greenwood said.
Belmont County Commissioner Ginny Favede said many possibilities suggested themselves during the conception and design of the building.
“When we got into the design and we really started to have conversations about the opportunities the new building presented to the population of seniors in Belmont County, we really started to look at what we could be doing, so the community room became a new concept that would allow seniors from all over the county to come together. We currently own, operate and/or rent 10 facilities throughout the county in each of the small communities and they gather monthly for community education days at the mall and on a biannual basis they rent a facility to have all-county events. This provided an opportunity for those events to be held more frequently.”
She noted the room also offers the possibility for extended programs and new services, such as health fairs. She added it would be possible to hold monthly health fairs, with the seniors bused in from their individual locations.
Favede added the seniors have expressed excitement and enthusiasm for the new addition.
“They’re very excited because they know that this is being build specifically for them,” she said, adding that the building would also house the Meals on Wheels program that delivers meals to seniors who do not frequent the centers.
“The entire time of the design phase has been a constant open stream of communication so that the end-product serviced the needs of the organization, and I don’t think it could be any better,” Favede said.
However, one of the most important parts of the building and the most impressive upgrade compared to the current facility is the kitchen.
“This is the heart of it all,” said Tim Crowley, architect with Breisch & Crowley. “They’re putting out 1,000 meals a day in a much smaller space that has needed updating for a long time.”
Crowley noted the poxy-resin floor of the new kitchen will be both durable and easy to clean. The walls are likewise easier to clean, with fiberglass reinforced plastic panels modeled after tiles but that does not hold grout. Freezers and coolers are tripled in size. he added that the existing kitchen does not have the space to cook meals and wash dishes at the same time. This problem will be rectified in the new kitchen.
“They’re going to be able to do everything at once,” Greenwood said. “It’s going to be a whole new world for them.”
Food service is the largest growth area in the services the department provides. In the next 10 years, the number of meals prepared could increase to 3,000. Provisions for the expansion of the kitchen and multi-purpose room were included in the designs.
In the event that additional space is needed, it can be made by changing out the condensing units from the cooler.
“I think this is wonderful,” said Senior Services Director Gary Armitage, comparing the building to the current facilities. “This is night and day. We’re going to have modern equipment and space to do programming here, as opposed to decentralized programming.”
He added the kitchen staff will need to be trained on the use of the new equipment. This will be part of the transition process from the old building into the new.
“We’ve been looking for this and planning for this for the last 20-plus years,” said Nutrition Administrator Tina Burkhart. “Throughout the years there have been many attempts, and it’s come to fruition. There are multiple possibilities for the new kitchen. We have more events to plan, a different menu selection we can prepare. It’s going to be a lot less strenuous on our workers. We’re going to have products that we weren’t able to prepare in the past due to space. This new kitchen is state-of-the-art and a lot more employee-friendly.”
She pointed out the small size of the kitchen allowed little space for mobility.
The current equipment will be given to Sargus Juvenile Detention Center.
Associated services, such as transportation have also been taken into account during the design process. Features will include measures such as an air curtain to prevent contamination. The design allows for materials flowing into the facility without going near the kitchen, which is totally separated from the receiving. In addition, the exterior boasts a rear canopy for drivers, so they will no longer be exposed to weather as they unload the vehicles. The back slab has a radiant heater system to melt ice and snow.
Another interesting addition with no shortage of potential is the basement. Favede said the space could be used for a possible walking track and fitness room. Other possible uses include storage space.
Armitage added that he and his staff are eager to move in.
“It’s going to give us the opportunity to hold more events and to expand our mission,” he said, pointing out the growing demand.
“The first thing you have to look at is the growth and the need for services in the current population that we have,” Armitage said, noting that the Baby Boomers are beginning to hit the senior market. “That’s going to be a continued trend for the next 20 years as they grow older and need more support services. Our primary mission is to keep people out of institutions, and this facility should allow us to grow with the demand as well as with the variety of services we’re going to provide, not only tomorrow but 10 years from now.”
He added that this reality has been an issue.
“We simply have no room over there to expand services any further,” he said. “We’re going to be able to service a much larger group of people than we have. Before, we’ve either had to rent an area or limit the size that attends at our existing centers because we don’t have a meeting room.”
He added that in prior years Senior Services has used the center at St. Clairsville, the Fairgrounds, or the Carnes Center for meetings.
“There’s a potential here to expand support services for the seniors and their families, to provide more educational and recreational opportunities for our seniors, to expand the level of support services that we provide at a centralized location,” he said. “This gives people a place to come where we can join all our centers in group activities to increase socialization.”
Favede pointed out that this is a local project done with local work, local building and design, and a team is locally based and invested in the project. This past week, the county received a Project BEST award for this building.
“This project has been one of the best experiences I’ve had as a county commissioner,” she said.
“We are people that will be living here in the future and potentially using the building as well. It’s important that we get it right for the community and everybody involved. It’s a Project BEST project, so we have an emphasis on local labor as well,” Crowley said, pointing out the cooperation among everyone involved in order for the project to go smoothly. Every two weeks, a meeting is held with the contractors and sub-contractors on site, as well as Armitage and the kitchen staff.
“We want to make sure that everybody’s talking about what needs to be done for the next week, and issues are brought up front,” he said, adding that the commissioners are also updated regularly.
The kitchen equipment was also purchased locally through a Wheeling company.
Favede added that the space for the existing Senior Services Department at the Oak View building will be used for records storage.
Favede also expressed gratitude to the people the county, noting that they can see the monies that they have provided in the form of levies going to a project for the long term benefit of seniors. She said this project represents a fulfillment of a long-time hope.
“It’s one of the items that was on our to-do list eight years ago and it’s certainly been on the to-do list of the county for almost three decades. This building has been in essence designed several times but there was never a movement to actually construct and build the project. It was certainly necessary and very excited to see it almost completely done.”