Structural problems may cause service disruption at senior center

David Savu, chairman of the Ishpeming Senior Center Building Committee, addresses the Ishpeming City Council at a recent meeting. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

ISHPEMING — The Ishpeming Senior Center may have to close its doors as a result of scrutiny from county building code officials.

David Savu, chairman of the Ishpeming Senior Center Building Committee, told the Ishpeming City Council Wednesday that the center received a letter and report from Marquette County Building Inspector Paul Knox detailing concerns about the structure at 320 S. Pine St. in Ishpeming.

Knox’s letter, Savu said, requires senior center officials to notify the county by Sept. 19 whether they intend to remediate the property by “making the necessary repairs or by demolition.”

The Ishpeming Senior Center Board of Directors adopted a proposal that would commit up to $25,000 if the city would commit a matching amount.

“The board of directors has drafted a motion, which is a proposal, offering to the city to share in the remediation costs on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a maximum contribution by the senior center of $25,000,” Savu said. “That would mean a matching contribution from the city so that we can attempt to establish a remediation plan.”

The Ishpeming Senior Center may have to close its doors as a result of scrutiny from county building code officials. The building’s board is committing $25,000 for repairs to the facility and is requesting the same amount from the city council. (Journal file photo)

An initial request by Savu to add the matter to Wednesday’s meeting agenda raised concerns for several city councilors.

“I want to be clear that I am not opposing anything that you might offer, I just think we are pushing way too fast on this,” Councilman Pat Scanlon said.

City Attorney Bonnie Hoff agreed.

“The letter from Mr. Knox was just delivered to the council literally five minutes ago. We have not had time to read it and digest it,” Hoff said.

Savu pointed to recent events at the facility, such as a visit by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters on Aug. 8, that didn’t raise any alarms.

“We don’t think there is any imminent danger of collapse; no imminent harm or threat,” he said. “The two most immediate concerns are the floor heaving and the electrical wiring.”

Senior center Director Elise Bertucci detailed several of the programs and services provided to older citizens in western Marquette County, including three case workers who help residents with in-home care services, household finances, health insurance questions, and state and federal income tax assistance.

“There’s a lot that the case workers are doing there,” Bertucci said. “And then there are the activities that happen on a regular basis. Everyone understands the social activities … We also have two foot care clinics a month. There are just a lot of things that happen at the center and we are very concerned about any disruption. At this point in time, there is no location that we would be able to move to and be able to offer the services and programs that we have available now. It just won’t happen.”

Savu told councilors that both the city and the senior center have the option to appeal Knox’s decision with the Marquette County Building Codes Board of Appeals within 20 days, but remediation with advice from the building codes inspector might be a better option.

During the Aug. 7 city council meeting, councilors voted unanimously to adopt a resolution and approve submission of a $2.2 million Community Development Block Grant application to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. for the proposed construction of a new senior center at 121 Greenwood St.

Demolition of the existing structure is expected to cost $75,000 and will constitute part of the $244,523 local match required for the grant, Interim City Manager Jim Lampman said.

A portion of the 10% match for the proposed cost of the project would be provided by the Greater Ishpeming Commission on Aging.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.