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Once vacant, current Seniors’ Center may become juvenile court

September 29th, 2011 11:45 pm by Gary B. Gray

A municipal switcheroo that could ultimately benefit all parties involved appears to be in the works.
Johnson City is soliciting architects to evaluate and determine the feasibility of converting the existing Seniors’ Center into the city’s juvenile court.
Meanwhile, construction of the new Memorial Park Community Center is on track for a March 2012 completion date, after which the city’s senior services will be moved to the new facility. And, when the existing city-owned building at 607 E. Myrtle Ave. becomes available, it could be renovated to serve as juvenile court.
All parties involved could benefit by the move, at very least when it comes to space.
The juvenile court, which is about 6,000 square feet in size, would double its space by moving into the roughly 12,000-square-foot seniors’ center. Meanwhile, seniors could quadruple their capacity when they move to the new community center. Granted, they will not have all of that space all the time, that will be a matter of programming and scheduling. But they will have an area that will be used mainly for senior activities. Plus, they gain the use of a new pool, gymnasium and other amenities.
The possible transition of the juvenile court to the seniors’ center is not a novel idea.
City commissioners and various members of committees involved in planning senior needs and activities in the senior component of the new $15 million, 67,000-square-foot center have mulled over the idea. The same goes for both City Commission candidates and seniors before this spring’s municipal election.
City Manager Pete Peterson is nearing a point at which he will hire a new Parks and Recreation Department director. Senior Services Director, Sue Orr, will continue to oversee senior programming at the new center, as well as scheduling that assures adequate use and enjoyment for seniors. Orr, or whoever is in that position, will report to the new director.
“I think most people know about this,” said Gary Lyon, Senior Center Advisory Council president-elect. “We’ll be moving to the new center and we’ll do the best we can. The advisory council toured the new center last week.”
Just exactly what will happen to the existing juvenile court building and parking lot remains unknown, though there has been talk about converting it for an alternate municipal use.
The Seniors’ Center was Tennessee’s first to be nationally accredited, and it currently sports a membership of more than 3,000. It has and will continue to offer adults over 55 a place to come together, participate in programs and enrich their quality of life, no matter the location.
The center also serves as a resource for information on aging, training, professional leadership, volunteer leadership, and the development of new approaches to aging programs.
Juvenile Court Judge Sharon M. Green currently heads the court, which is located at 102 W. Myrtle Ave.
Green and the court provide forums for the presentation of legal matters concerning children. Issues addressed include child abuse/neglect, unruly children, juvenile delinquency, counseling with probation officers, child support enforcement, parentage (paternity/legitimation) and certain cases involving adults, also are addressed.
Sealed proposals for architectural services must be received by the city no later than 3 p.m. Oct. 11, at which time they will be opened. RFP documents can be obtained from the city’s purchasing department, 209 Water St. or by calling 975-2716.

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