Planned Center for Living home: big idea, small space

— File photo by Steve Myrick

Dukes County manager Russell Smith presented a plan to the county commissioners on January 25 to lease land at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Business Park, and construct a building that would provide more county office space, records storage space for the six Island towns, and a permanent home for the Center for Living.

The Center for Living is a regional agency that provides a range of support for people 55 and over who have medical needs and may be at risk if left alone.

The agency does not have a permanent location, and does not have enough space to accommodate the demand for services.

Currently, the Center for Living is based at the Edgartown senior center two days a week, and at the Tisbury senior center two days a week.

While a new building would eliminate the burden of constantly moving the program, the building now in the planning stages would not meet the space needs to accommodate the 10 people currently on the Center for Living waiting list.

A bigger building or future expansion would be needed to meet the demands of a sharp increase in the aging population expected over the next two decades.

“It’s doable, because it’s a start,” said Leslie Clapp, executive director of the Center for Living. “If we have our own space, we can make it work.”

Mr. Smith said the space could be expanded in the future, but conceded it is not big enough to meet the current demand for services.

“Is the glass half full, or half empty,” Mr. Smith said. “They would have a home. The building doesn’t preclude them from increasing their space.”

Funding the future

Island officials are awaiting word from the Community Innovation Challenge Grant program on funding for the new regional services building.

The state Executive Office for Administration and Finance will hand out $4 million as an incentive for communities to regionalize services.

“The goal of the grant is to provide significant incentives and financial support for one-time or transitional costs related to improving local government service delivery, efficiency, service quality, and achieving cost savings,” according to the grant program web site.

Though Mr. Smith wrote the grant, the county is not eligible to apply. The town of Edgartown submitted the proposal on behalf of the six Island towns.

The grant application asks for $385,000, including $315,000 for a pre-fabricated modular structure to be constructed off Island and shipped to the site.

The grant application also asks for $10,000 for architectural specifications, $14,000 to connect utilities, $18,000 for plumbing and heating, and $12,000 for landscaping, ramps, and a parking lot.

State officials promise to announce grant awards sometime this month.

Plan problems

While planning is still in the preliminary stages, a conceptual drawing created by Mr. Smith pictures a ranch style modular structure joined to a 1-1/2 story rectangular modular structure, sitting on a concrete foundation.

The rectangular building would house the Center for Living’s supportive day program in a 28- by 36-foot room, with office space on a second floor.

The ranch style structure would include a kitchen and two handicapped accessible bathrooms, as well as four offices for current and future county programs, according to Mr. Smith.

A full basement would provide records storage for the county and the Island’s six towns.

As the Center for Living staff explored options over the past several years, staff members met with an architect and determined that 5,400 square feet of space would meet the program’s needs, according to Mr. Smith.

As shown in the conceptual drawing, The entire space for the first floor of the proposed regional services building is less than 2,400 square feet.

The Center for Living program space is 1,008 square feet on the first floor, with an unspecified amount of office space on the second floor.

The space is not significantly larger than the current locations at the Edgartown senior center and the Tisbury senior center.

Space is more than a matter of convenience. State regulations require at least 50 square feet of space for each participant in the supportive day program. Those space requirements are the reason the center cannot accommodate all of the people who want to use the program in its current locations.

“The building the grant has been written for would not be bigger than what we have now,” Ms. Clapp said. “But it would be a start.” She said having a space available five days per week instead of the current four days per week, could help serve more people.

“It would keep us from having to move around, and it would move us forward,” Ms. Clapp said.

Ms. Clapp noted that the 2010 census figures show the number of people aged 60 and over living on Martha’s Vineyard has increased by 50 percent since 2000. She expects demand for the center’s services to grow.