After years of being the subject of budget cuts, the Parks and Recreation Department is hoping the city’s seniors can benefit from the expected surplus in the years to come.
Parks and Recreation Director Larry Mazzuca is working on proposals to lower user costs at the senior center and modernize the facility.
On Wednesday, he told the city’s Senior Advisory Commission he believes it’s time to look at updating the facility, which is used by dozens of groups and hundreds of seniors and residents each week. He will present his ideas to the City Council in the spring as part of the city’s budget negotiations.
“I’ve been here for seven years, and this is the first time in those seven years that the city has a surplus,” Mazzuca said, adding that the city expects a surplus in each of the next six years.
“We’ve been doing nothing but cutting. Now we’re looking at how we can start restoring and improving and reinvesting in not only our facilities ... but programs, staffing, bringing things back we’ve had to cut to survive.”
The City Council will have ultimate authority on what will make its way into the upcoming two-year budget and the longer-term capital improvement project plan.
Mazzuca said he believes the city should start by hiring a consultant who specializes in modernization projects to look at how best to maximize space in the senior center and parking lot and bring the building up to 2013 standards.
“A few things have been done over the years to freshen it up, but it is an older building,” Mazzuca said. “When the senior center was built many years ago, it was based on the needs then and probably projected out 20 years. We are well past that. We need to plan for a senior center focused on seniors today, tomorrow and the ones after that.”
Mazzuca said smaller needs identified by seniors, such as repainting and purchase of seats and accent pillows, can be addressed by staff. Larger proposals, including construction projects to increase space, would need special appropriations.
Mazzuca said it will be up to the council to determine whether to include a study of the center or renovations in its budget or longer-term capital improvement project plan.
Mazzuca also intends to work on a plan to address center use fees to lessen the burden on senior groups.
Mazzuca’s plans are among those that many departments are drafting for council consideration this spring when it discusses the budget for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years.