The construction of a proposed Washington County senior center again dominated the discussion at a meeting Thursday at Girls Inc. in Hagerstown.
The keynote speaker at the event was Maryland Department of Aging Secretary Gloria Lawlah, who told the about 15 seniors in attendance that they deserved a place to get information about their benefits and gather for fellowship.
“I think it’s going to be built. I think it’s going to be fabulous,” Lawlah said.
Susan MacDonald, executive director of the Washington County Commission on Aging, said after the meeting that county officials have discussed building a senior center on the Hagerstown Community College campus, but the project has been stalled for some time because of budget problems.
Joe Kroboth, director of Washington County public works, could not be reached directly for comment, but said in a telephone message that the project came in $2 million more than what was budgeted.
The original plan called for a two-story building, but the $8 million cost far exceeded the budget of about $5.8 million, county officials have said.
Kroboth said the Washington County Board of Commissioners ordered that the project be redesigned. That plan called for making the center one floor instead of two.
“We are in the process of redesigning the project, and we hope to put the project out for bid sometime in early July, which means the bids would come back toward the end of July and hopefully be awarded sometime right around the beginning of August,” Kroboth said in the message.
Lawlah said during the meeting that the main goal was to get feedback from the seniors to determine their needs. Each senior was given a questionnaire that asked what they wanted, including options such as building a senior center, disease-prevention programs, meal programs and legal assistance.
Virginia McCusker, 67, of Clear Spring said afterward that she believed the session was informative.
McCusker said she would like the county to build a swimming pool that seniors could use for exercise and physical therapy. She said she also supported the Meals on Wheels program and having an ombudsman to advocate against senior citizen abuse.
Although McCusker said too much of the meeting was devoted to the senior center, she said she believed building one was a good idea.
“It is needed,” she said. “I think seniors need to get together. There are a lot of lonely people in this county.”