To meet the demands of a burgeoning over-60 population, Carroll County officials are planning two new senior centers and an addition to the county's largest senior facility, in Westminster.
In the next five years, the county expects to build centers in North and South Carroll to replace sites where population and participation have outstripped space. The commissioners agreed yesterday to increase the size of those facilities by nearly 5,000 square feet each, a decision that could add more than $1 million to the construction costs.
"It's cheaper to do while we are building rather than have to come back later and add on," said Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. "Our senior population is growing each year."
According to the Bureau of Aging, Carroll has 21,770 residents age 60 and older. The 1990 census listed about 13,000 in that group.
"It is wise to add this space now and have it ready for the next 20 years," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.
The county expects to break ground on the South Carroll center early next year. The board budgeted $3 million for the new center on 10 acres near Mineral Hill and Oklahoma roads. Meanwhile, the county spent nearly $200,000 to improve the present center, adding classrooms and exercise space to the Bartholow Road site.
The North Carroll project is set for construction in 2011. The county is renovating and adding 1,400 square feet to the present center on the ground floor of the North Carroll library in Hampstead. That facility averages about 2,000 participants daily.
"The new space will not alleviate a lot of the crowding problems," said Patty Whitson, the Bureau of Aging's community services supervisor. "They can't even run some classes because of lack of space."
Plans also call for a 2,500-square-foot expansion of the Westminster Senior Center, built in 1996 as the flagship of the county's five centers. The project has yet to receive budget approval.
"We have had significant increases in population since we started building centers," said Jolene G. Sullivan, county director of citizen services. "We are learning more and more about the needs and the activities and designing facilities to meet those. They used to come to the center for a meal and cards. Now we have exercise rooms and space for ballroom dancing."
South Carroll and Westminster average nearly 3,000 participants a month. North Carroll's attendance is about 1,000 people fewer, but officials attribute that to less space. The Mount Airy and Taneytown centers have also seen a surge in attendance, officials said.