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Lexington council commits to building a single, city-run senior center

The Lexington Senior Citizens Center on Nicholasville Road in Lexington.
The Lexington Senior Citizens Center on Nicholasville Road in Lexington. Lexington Herald-Leader

A flurry of business on Tuesday night left Lexington's Urban County Council committed to building at least one freestanding, city-run senior citizens center, while leaving open the possibility of satellite centers run cooperatively with a private partner.

Council member George Myers, who moved for that commitment during council's work session Tuesday, specified no site for the center.

But Chief Administrative Officer Sally Hamilton, in replying to a question, said city staffers were prepared to discuss one possible site. That prompted council member Chuck Ellinger to move for a closed session to discuss property acquisition. Council members met for about 30 minutes behind closed doors.

The next step is unclear.

Staffers from the Urban County Department of Social Services did tell council that if a site were chosen in the next month, construction on a new center could start by December 2014, with completion in early 2016.

Council's action capped almost three hours of discussion about what facilities Lexington should build to replace an aging 15,000-square-foot senior citizen center at Nicholasville Road and Alumni Drive.

Regular users of the center told council that they need new facilities but don't want to share them with the YMCA. The comments were in response to a proposal last month by David Martorano, president and CEO of YMCA of Central Kentucky. Martorano outlined the possibility of a partnership in which the Y would build and operate four senior centers attached to YMCA locations in Lexington.

Laura Thomas summed up the feeling, calling for "a place where I can feel safe," and "a place of our own ... under one roof." Joy Payne said she didn't want to "smell sweaty socks when I go to the senior citizens center."

On Tuesday night, Martorano suggested that independent research be done to determine the best way to meet seniors' needs.

Some council members indicated continued interest in the YMCA proposal, perhaps with the city building one large center and using Y facilities for two satellite centers. Martorano said he'd be willing to discuss that.

Council budgeted $5 million this fiscal year for senior citizen center site selection and design. Two potential sites have been mentioned for a single freestanding center: an old Kroger Store in Beaumont Centre, and the former Turfland Mall on Harrodsburg Road. The former Springs Motel property on Harrodsburg Road was recommended early in the process but has been eliminated from consideration.

According to the social services staff, one new 46,000-square-foot center would cost an estimated $15.27 million.

Building a 35,000-square-foot main building and a 20,000-square-foot satellite would cost about $17.8 million, they said.

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