The Flathead County commissioners voted unanimously on Oct. 10 to pursue a federal grant that would help pay for the evaluation of the buildings that host the county’s senior centers.
The money would come in the form of a planning grant through the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG), according to county grant writer Debbie Pierson, and would be used to pay for planning activities – in this case, a preliminary architectural report on the senior center buildings in Bigfork, Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Kalispell.
But since Flathead County already has a planning grant in process – a preliminary architectural report for the Gateway Community Center – the county would have to apply for this grant with Kalispell’s help, Pierson noted.
The city of Kalispell has an open spot for such a grant application, and is willing to consider working with the county, Pierson told the commissioners.
According to an overview Pierson filed with the commission, the senior center buildings in Flathead County are aging, and there are limited funds available for building upkeep and maintenance.
“Accessibility and health and safety challenges exist at some centers,” Pierson wrote. “A number of facilities have space limitations, making it difficult to increase service to a growing number of seniors in our valley.”
The maximum allowed for a planning grant from the CDBG program is $30,000, and the county would be responsible for matching one dollar for every three dollars granted, making the maximum county out-of-pocket expense $10,000.
Pierson told the commissioners that these architectural reviews would contain information on health and safety concerns; operation and maintenance issues at each facility; and growth and population trends.
Each site would also be evaluated on its current condition, and receive analyses for alternative options, including leaving the building as is, renovating the current building, or relocating to a new building.
“There are different challenges at different centers,” Pierson told the commission.
There would also be different qualifications when considering the Kalispell senior center, given its potential to be torn down and rebuilt or included in future county Agency on Aging changes, she said.
Earlier this year, the county began and then halted the pursuit of a different CDBG project via the city of Kalispell, which would have sought $450,000 to help fund a new Agency on Aging building.
This latest CDBG attempt, however, received full support from the three commissioners, who approved of moving forward with asking Kalispell for help with the grant, as well as agreeing that the county will commit $10,000 to such a project.
“I think this is great that we’re doing this,” Commissioner Pam Holmquist said. “I look forward to seeing what we get.”
Pierson told the commission that the county intends to present the planning project to the Kalispell City Council on Oct. 21, and the commissioners agreed that it would be important for all three of them to be there, since they each have a senior center in their respective districts.
The finalized planning grant application would need to be sent in by Nov. 1.
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