5/9/2014 6:00:00 AM Blythe Community/Senior Center reopens remodeled and improved
Times photo/JACLYN RANDALL
Blythe Community/Senior Center finally reopens this month after months being closed to perform the much-needed renovations. It boasts new ceiling tiles, light fixtures, redone and updated ADA bathrooms, a new roof, and automated front doors. Also, the outside has been repainted, the parking lot resealed, and new ADA ramps have been constructed next to the parking lot on the north side of the building.
BLYTHE, Calif. - Blythe Community/Senior Center finally reopens this month after months of being closed to perform the much-needed renovations. The kitchen remains closed with a proposed release date towards the end of May.
According to Project Manager, Jeff Hays of Desert Alliance for Community Improvement (DACE) the kitchen needs some final preparation before releasing it for use. In the meantime, the center boasts new ceiling tiles, light fixtures, redone and updated bathrooms, a new roof, and automated front doors. Also the outside of the building received a facelift with a new paint job, ADA compliant ramps leading from the parking lot, and the parking lot resealed. And soon passersby will be able to see the new landscaping that will sit in front and surround the immediate area.
"I am extremely pleased by the progress and am anxious to see a nearly new facility with a much greater capacity to serve the community when done," said Riverside County 4th District Supervisor John J. Benoit.
All of the improvements came after the County of Riverside Department of Environmental Health performed a routine inspection of the community center because of Riverside County Office on Aging operates the Senior Nutrition Program out of the center weekly and warned them that if the building was not brought up to code and the recommended renovations were not made the program would be shut down.
The Office of Aging approached the city in September 2013 who denied responsibility of the building's issues although its own contract stated the city was responsible for the air conditioner and heating upkeep, plumbing, electrical, windows, and structural parts. The county program was only responsible for janitorial services and cleaning supplies.
At the time, then-mayor and current councilman Oscar Galvan said, "I never realized what bad of a shape that the building was in. But now I know and see it and I will bring it to the attention of the other council members and see about getting the place upgraded."
The Office of Aging said what they needed at the time was a contingency plan for the health department.
"We have to give them an update every 30-60 days showing that we plan on getting the repairs done within six months to a year," said former Office on Aging Contracts and Services Officer Jeff T. Meyers.
The Community/Senior Center was dedicated in 1986. Office on Aging and the city entered into a lease agreement in 2009 for $300 with a three percent step increase each year. Office on Aging also pays 60 percent of the utilities.
Riverside County Supervisor John T. Benoit heard about the issues at the community center and pledged $300,000 for the renovations. Since then the cost of the project added an additional $50,000 according to Hays because more problems were discovered as contractors were breaking down the place.
"We found that the grease traps were done wrong so we had to re-do those and the whole kitchen and walk-in freezer area was reconfigured," said Hays.
The city council voted unanimously during the Oct. 8, 2013 council meeting to accept the $300,000 that came to them from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money. The city will have to repay $75,000 in three installments of $25,000 using future CDBG money beginning this coming fiscal year (2013-2014). The money that is repaid will not have any impact on the city's general fund.
The Community/Senior Center closed in November for renovations but construction didn't begin until February this year because of the bidding process. Since then, the seniors have commuted to the Roy Wilson Community Center on Mesa Drive for meals and activities. Other activities and groups had to find other locations to meet such as the City of Blythe Multipurpose Room. But the wait will soon be over and community/senior center users will be able to appreciate the work that went into the project.
The City of Blythe dedicated the Blythe Community/Senior Center in 1986 and this is the first time any renovations have been completed on the center.