Members of the Senior Ad Hoc Advisory Committee presented the assembly with a proposal for a senior center during the assembly meeting on July 7, alongside a request to begin the bidding process for an architecture and engineering firm to get the project underway.
Senior Ad Hoc Committee Chairman Michael Baish said this project is particularly important because it will directly impact the community.
“This project specifically benefits the year round residents of Skagway and allows them to remain in town close to their friends and family, rather than alone at an outside facility,” Baish said. “This is a project for Skagway, about Skagway, not about the tourist industry, or the summer. It’s almost unique in that way.”
The senior center is planned to be a 10,400 square foot facility built on the corner of 11th and Broadway, where the old White Pass hospital was formerly located, with an estimated price tag of $5.9 million dollars.
One member of the community expressed concern over the proposed location for the facility.
“It’s a beautiful spot, but it’s not even that good for the seniors. If they come home drunk they’ll land in the crik and drown,” Mavis Henricksen said during public comments on the project.
The senior center would house approximately seven apartments, two of which could be subsidized for low-income residents, in addition to a lobby, an arts and crafts room, dining area and a full commercial kitchen.
“The quality of the structures and the furnishings are such that they would continue to provide these services for 50 years or more,” Baish said. “This is not a quick and dirty double-wide in the middle of nowhere.”
Although the center is in the early planning stages, the assembly is already discussing how to fund the project.
“I’d recommend that you secure the money and know how you’re going to pay for it prior to going into this,” Hahn said.
Baish urged the assembly to apply for various grants targeted toward senior housing and center construction projects to fund the effort.
Assemblyman Tim Cochran additionally proposed considering a bond to fund whatever grants could not cover.
“We won’t really know how much it’s going to cost until we get something planned and engineered,” Mayor Mark Schaefer said.
Assemblyman Steve Burnham Jr. recommended having the borough’s treasurer and finance department look over the proposal and make funding recommendations to the assembly before any further decisions are made.