Politics & Government

Macon-Bibb commissioners to discuss senior citizens center options

A.L. Miller High School on Montpelier Avenue.
A.L. Miller High School on Montpelier Avenue. wmarshall@macon.com

A local group says it’s not satisfied with the two potential locations for the Macon-Bibb County Senior Citizens Center that architects are scheduled to provide details about Tuesday.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission will hear presentations during a work session about moving the senior citizens center to the former Gilead Academy and adjacent Bloomfield Recreation Center or to the former A.L. Miller School. Several members of The Golden Group, a group of seniors who attend the center on Adams Street, said the Miller school property is too outdated and that Bloomfield, at 5.4 miles from the current senior center location, is too far away.

“Let us seniors decide where it goes, because we’re the ones that will be going there,” said Gwen Strong, vice president of the Golden Group.

The group’s four officers met July 21 with Mayor Robert Reichert to discuss the center, said Strong, and the group prefers relocating to Central City Park.

“It’s close to downtown, and it’s convenient to the bus route,” Strong said. “And if (seniors) leave, they can go to the doctor nearby.”

Commissioner Al Tillman, who sponsored a resolution to study the feasibility of using the Miller building, said he’s hopeful a relocation will be complete by the end of the year.

The Miller building is being renovated into a senior housing development and is only a little more than a mile from the current center, he said.

Commissioners have examined 10 locations, and there’s been difficulty agreeing on a site that’s financially feasible and in an area the majority of seniors prefer, Tillman said.

“We want them to be at a place they want to be and that we can afford to spend with the amount of money we have,” he said. “We’ve looked at many locations, I’m serious when I say this: Whatever they want, I want. But you can’t just keep naming locations.”

There is $2.7 million set aside for the project, including $2 million from the recent special purpose local option sales tax and $750,000 from a land swap with Mercer University.

Commissioner Elaine Lucas said she thinks officials will find another $300,000 for the senior center.

Lucas said commissioners will have to do some “soul searching” before deciding where the center should relocate. There’s a possibility a third location emerges as a viable option, she said.

“Once we get all the information, then I think we’ll make the best decision we can based on the money and what the majority of the senior citizens want,” Lucas said.

Golden Group member Leroy Thomas Sr. said he’d like to see the center near downtown since there are not only more medical resources but also more events for seniors.

“I think it would behoove the city and county to have its seniors downtown,” he said.

Earlier this year, commissioners were set to move ahead with the former Gilead Academy and Bloomfield Recreation Center properties until Louisville, Kentucky-based Oracle Design Group offered the vacant A.L. Miller building as an option.

An attempt by the Telegraph to reach Oracle’s Mark Wright on Monday was unsuccessful.

Designs for the Bloomfield property include an addition to the existing recreation center for many of the programs as well as a gymnasium for other activities, said Bruce Morris, senior project manager for Sizemore Group.

Morris declined to reveal the cost ahead of Tuesday’s presentation.

Macon-Bibb County spokesman Chris Floore said county leaders are open to other options if commissioners decide they want to examine them.

“We’re willing to explore further any building asked about by the Commission,” Floore said in an email.

Tillman said he’s glad some seniors are wanting to learn more about the process.

“The ultimate goal is for the commission and seniors to get a center built and moving,” Tillman said. “I don’t think it’s a them versus us.”

The commission’s work session begins at 1 p.m. at the Macon-Bibb County Government Center, 700 Poplar St.

Information from the Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623.