November 29, 2021

County considers help with design of senior hub

Cortland County is considering hiring a consultant to plan renovations for its planned centralized senior center hub in the city of Cortland.

The county knew it needed to knock down walls to open up the space for congregating seniors, but additional guidance is needed to continue the design process.

Cortland County began leasing a 2,200-square-foot suite in the Crescent Commons building at 165 Main St. in late July. The building is a former factory on south Main Street in Cortland that now houses offices and apartments.

This suite will become the central hub senior center, as the county transitions to a grant program for centers in outlying areas. Groups proposing outlying centers have until Friday to apply for grants of $8,500 or $11,500 to run the centers on their own. The county’s Area Agency on Aging expects six outlying centers to apply.

Liz Haskins, director of the county’s Area Agency on Aging, told county legislators this week at a Health and Human Services Committee meeting that her office is seeking more input from seniors about the Cortland Age Well Center at Crescent Commons.

“There are different things that we’d like to do over there, but there are so many balls in the air right now,” Haskins said.

First, the Office for Aging hopes to acquire furniture that matches the aesthetic at the hub’s suite at the Crescent Commons, and to build a computer lab, too. A consultant would help draft other modifications.

“We don’t necessarily want to go to the old center that we saw there — either we want invigorating and lightning opportunities to learn more and for people to keep up with their grandchildren,” Legislator Ann Homer (D-Cortland) said Tuesday. “Let’s strike while the iron is hot.”

The county is considering hiring Esther Greenhouse of the Tompkins County-based Silver to Gold Strategic Consulting firm, a nationally recognized expert on aging well, to improve the designs and manage the project.

“We care about our senior population, our aging population, and this can help prove it because we want to build a vibrant and dynamic aging well center,” Homer said.

The Area Agency on Aging has the funding available, $7,500, but needs approval from the Legislature and county attorney to sign a contract with Greenhouse. It received unanimous approval and will be sent to the full Legislature for final approval.

“It’s a huge potential, but we have an opportunity to blow it if we don’t get the right advice on how to do it,” said Legislator Christopher Newell (UCortlandville). “This is a longterm situation, so if we can do it immediately when we’re in the process of figuring out what we do need, it should help us in the future.”

Homer said the central hub will serve more than just the city’s seniors.

“With the redesign of our programs and the provision of transportation for those who want to come into the hub and get the subsidized meals, this is going to be a countywide service center of our aging population,” Homer said.

“We need to think about the big picture, too, it’s not restricted to city residents, it’s going to serve our seniors throughout the community and potentially beyond,” Homer added.