by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — When Lewiston officials unveiled the rough plans for a new $10 million recreation and senior center last year, the input they received appeared to be mostly positive.
Organizers and committee members responsible for creating the center said the facility fit a desperate need in the community and everyone they talked to agreed with them.
Not so fast, say many of the senior citizens who occupy the current center on Tuesday afternoons, the busiest day for the Lower River Road facility which a new center would make obsolete.
"I feel the center should stay where it is," Helen Brzusek, vice president of the center's Senior's Club, said. "They can spend the money to fix the roof. We're private here and we're happy."
In an effort to provide the public with as much information as is available right now, the town has scheduled an open meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, with members of the town board expected to attend with Lewiston-Porter School Board members, as well as those from the town's planning board, environmental commission and bureau of fire prevention.
Lew-Port representative are invited because the town is negotiating a land purchase from the district to house the center, which would be built in front of the district's high school on Creek Road near Pletcher Road.
It's a mere stone's throw from the current senior center, but the drive to the school campus has others at the center worried about safety.
"The trucks go barreling down Creek Road," Stella Reed said. "I'm worried about the traffic. And the time we'd be leaving the center is also the time the school buses would all be converging at the schools. I don't think it would be safe."
Creating a new senior center as part of the multimillion-dollar recreation center also served as a way to avoid making needed repairs to the existing one. The roof of the building is in dire need of replacing, as it leaks consistently. The staff could also use a new, larger kitchen to prepare its meals it offers every weekday.
But participation in the center's events is fading consistently. The tables have gone from filling up with the older generation enjoying multiple games of euchre and other card games to two or three smatterings of people. Though the simply fact the aging are dying off may seem a bit morose, they said it's simply the truth.
"We lose more than we seem to gain," Phyllis Infantino said.
"We seem to be dying off," said others.
But the declining active population and the center's own life expectancy on the back half mean the time is right to make the switch to a new place, said Harry Lehman.
He said it's a necessity, not a luxury at this point.
"We're going to have to have it," he said. "This one's going to ruin. The roof is shot, we're confined to small rooms. We need to have an up-to-date senior center. I think they have no choice."
Though the opinions of the proposal varied among the center's seniors, what didn't fluctuate was the support for having the project go to the people for a vote. Every center attendee asked, including those who didn't want to be quoted, said the project should be left to the people to decide.
"I don't think they have a choice," Lehman said. "They're going to have to let it go to a vote at some point, I would think."