Construction of Jonesborough’s new $2.3 million seniors center is off to a slow start.
Since ceremonially breaking ground on the new site at East Main Street at Longview Drive on Nov. 28, the project has encountered several rounds of bad weather, including a couple of bouts of extremely cold temperatures since Jan. 1.
In a construction update, Town Administrator Bob Browning said this week the weather has been a major drawback. The good news, he said, is the building’s elevator pad is in place and the town’s building inspector, Jay Green, has been brought in to help move things along.
“The architect has an inspector on the job, but an architect’s inspector under normal circumstances will have more than one project going on,” Browning said. “It’s a lot easier for our inspector to be available. The weather has been a real issue. But hopefully by March, we’ll be able to see it really coming out of the ground.”
When complete, the building will provide more than 13,000 square feet of finished programming space, or four to five times more than the existing center at Persimmon Ridge Park.
At the November ground-breaking ceremony, Mayor Kelly Wolfe called the project an investment in Jonesborough’s citizens and in the town’s primary “selling point,” its quality of life.
The groundbreaking was held immediately following the state fire marshal’s approval of a final set of revised designs for the building, and perhaps forebodingly of the weather that lay ahead, took place under a tent in a cold downpour of rain.
Rainey Construction, the low bidder and lead contractor on the project, began excavation work on the site in September soon after the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s approval of revised designs drawn up after the low bid for the construction came in some $2 million over budget.
With the board’s approval of the final plans, Alderman Homer G’Fellers noted the project has been some two decades in the making, with discussions of the need for a new seniors center dating back as far as the 1990s.
Ken Ross Architects developed the first set of plans for the center in 2012 and revised the designs last summer.
The “value-engineered” design eliminated a full commercial kitchen included in the original plans and left the building’s entire lower level unfinished but plumbed and wired for completion at a future date when more funding may become available. The revisions also included a change in the grade of the property that reduced the size of the unfinished lower level.
Features left in place to enhance the building’s appearance include a metal roof, upper-level balconies and decorative brickwork above the center’s windows. Amenities will include a multi-use dining room that can also be used for dances, meetings and large presentations; exercise, craft and game rooms; a computer lab; a parlor; a lobby; and administrative offices.
The project is being funded by a $2.3 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development. Wolfe said Washington County has also agreed to contribute $500,000 after the building’s construction is substantially complete, which may be used to finish the lower level.
The mayor assured the Seniors Center Building Committee in September the remaining unfinished space will leave ample room for expansion, and the addition of a kitchen will be a priority.