GLOVERSVILLE — The Senior Citizens Service Center of Gloversville & Fulton County will benefit from a $50,000 federal U.S. Housing and Urban Renewal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) awarded to the city of Gloversville on Tuesday.
“The city got the grant, but it’s for our benefit,” said Senior Center Board President Gray Pitkin. “My reaction is, I think this is awesome.”
The Common Council applied for the CDBG funding in June, acting as the local government applicant on behalf of the senior center. The city will contribute a required 5% match towards the funding, $2,500.
“The money is to be used for a study of our (53 Church St.) facility to do upgrades, and sorely needed repairs,” Pitkin said. “We have problems with the roof. We have problems with the asphalt parking lot. We have problems with the sidewalks. We have problems with cement, and many of those things have not been serviced before, basically because of a lack of money. What this money does is it will hire the architects and the engineers to determine what is the best way to proceed to save the building, to preserve the senior center. The building probably hasn’t had any upgrades in 20 or 30 years, that I know of.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the grant for Gloversville Tuesday as part of $33 million in Community Development Block Grant funding awarded to dozens of municipalities for local infrastructure improvement and housing rehabilitation projects throughout the state.
“By supporting improvements to build affordable housing, enhance public water facilities and strengthen local infrastructure, this funding will lay the groundwork for stronger, more resilient neighborhoods across New York,” Hochul stated in a news release. “These critical investments in our public infrastructure will help provide safe, stable housing and affordable amenities to New Yorkers while allowing businesses to grow and thrive, and I thank the New York Congressional Delegation for securing this vital funding for our state.”
The Mohawk Valley Region, which includes Gloversville, was awarded a total of $7.3 million from the CDBG funding, the most of any region in New York state. By comparison, the Capital Region was awarded a total of $95,500.
According to Pitkin, the senior center originally attempted to submit a project proposal for upgrades to its facility into the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative process. He said the senior center needs major structural improvements, including a new roof, new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as upgrades to its electrical wiring.
“The DRI program was not a good fit for us,” Pitkin said. “So, thanks to our mayor, he kind of thought we should work with (city grant writer) Nick Zabowski who would write us an application for a grant to do the study, and then use the results of the study to carry it forward for an application for a grant to actually do the work.”
DeSantis on Tuesday said the $50,000 grant is only the first step in what he believes will be a multiyear process for the senior center to get the funding it needs.
“In order to apply for major funding to renovate the senior center through (New York state’s Consolidated Funding Application process), you have to have an engineering study, there has to be an architectural engineer who can tell you what the building needs and what the approximate costs would be,” DeSantis said. “Once you get your facts in order, you can apply for funding to actually implement it. I remember talking to Gray Pitkin, and I told him, ‘Gray, you’re going to have to hold it together for about two years.'”
DeSantis said the council will initiate a sealed competitive bidding process for the CDBG funding soon, with the hope of getting the study completed within the next three or four months, enabling the city to apply for a larger state grant sometime in 2023 to pay for the actual upgrades.
Pitkin said he worked with state and federal grant programs for 33 years, so he is realistic about the potential time table going forward.
“It will take awhile. It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.
Pitkin said the senior center currently has about 100 dues-paying members. He said paying dues to the senior center gains the seniors about four senior center events per quarter, which include holiday themed parties, and the different breakfasts, lunches and dinners served at the center.
He said the senior center board of directors wants to hire a part-time director to expand programming and a part-time food service coordinator to help with the weekly Wednesday luncheons and breakfasts on Saturday, as well as the senior food pantry.
“Right now, we’re debating about how best to go about putting people on the payroll to serve those positions,” Pitkin said. “We want to put the food service person to work as soon as possible, and I think we can afford that.”
Pitkin said he is hopeful the eventual upgrade project at the senior center will upgrade the building’s kitchen facility.
“I’d like it to be a small, compact, commercial-type kitchen where right now our kitchen facility is more or less an overgrown home-style kitchen, and it wasn’t really designed for putting out large quantities of food,” Pitkin said. “If we can expand the kitchen, I would look forward to us doing meals where we can serve, maybe, 50, 60, 70 people, instead of 30 to 40.”