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Big plans in works for senior center, veterans park
senior center plans
A drawing shows the location of a new senior center at Veterans Memorial Park. The new center won’t break ground until at least 2019. - photo by For the Dawson County News

Veterans Memorial Park in Dawsonville is bustling with activity these days as the recreational center undergoes long overdue renovations.

So far the most noticeable change is in the pool house, a building that has sat at the front entrance of the park for at least forty years. The building was demolished earlier this year and is undergoing its final weeks of reconstruction.

The pool house, which contains concessions, changing rooms and storage, is expected to be completed by May 15, according to Dawson County Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Henson. New fencing will also update the look of the pool area, home to the county’s only public pool.

It’s one of many recent and future upgrades the county is performing on the park, which celebrates its 46th birthday this year.

The park is also scheduled for a complete repaving, a process that is already halfway finished. The back parking lot, walking trails and other parking spaces and roads have been completely repaved and striped up to the parking lot of the Margie Weaver Senior Center, leaving the roads in front of the center and gym as well as the two front parking lots left to pave.

Henson also said the road leading back to the senior center will be widened, a much needed improvement.

The lone gymnasium at the park is also looking forward to a facelift. 

On April 19 the board of commissioners voted to accept a donation from engineering firm Robertson Loia Roof to provide architecture and engineering services for the exterior of the gym.

The value of the proposal is $15,000, and will provide the county with design and construction documents for when the county puts the construction work out for bid.

The plan is to add concrete blocks about 40 inches tall around the outside base of the gym, where the metal siding has rusted. Also new will be a stone and wood canopy at the front entrance.

Henson said she didn’t consider taking the gym down: Though around 30 years old, the gym is still in good condition.

Duane Roof, who offered the free architecture and engineering services, designed Rock Creek Park in 2000, according to Henson.

The proposed construction budget is $150,000 and the estimated time frame for construction is about two months. Henson said she will meet with the architect next week to begin the process.

Another project will be to convert the block building housing restrooms in the back of the park into an updated pavilion with restrooms.

The design elements of the new construction will have to be kept cohesive with the new senior center that is being planned, according to Senior Center Director Dawn Pruett.

“Lisa and I have worked together to make everything sort of blend, so any of the new construction or rehabilitation is all going to mesh really good together,” Pruett said.

In April of last year, senior services received a $700,000 check from the Pauline S. Ivey Trust for a new senior center. A further donation upped the funds for the project to around $944,000, according to Pruett, and the planning has taken off from there.

On March 15 the commission approved a revitalization concept plan for the center and the park so that Pruett could apply for funding to assist with the construction through a block grant. The county is eligible for up to $750,000, and should know by August if they have been awarded any of the grant funds.

“We’re continuing to work on the design of the building until then and cost analysis and things like that,” Pruett said. “I can tell you that of the applicants that applied in the state of Georgia, there were only three senior center applications that were submitted, so that’s a good thing.”

The board also approved a contract with Wakefield Beasley and Associates on March 15 to develop drawings and specifications for the construction of the expansion, not to exceed $204,000. The concept plan shows a new 4,800 square foot expansion to the right of the existing center. The single-level building will be connected to the existing center with a covered breezeway.

Planned for the new facility are a multipurpose room for lunch and special events, a game room with computers, a movie room, a commercial kitchen, lots of storage space, a conference room and an Alzheimer’s respite care room.

“Family members can bring their mother or father or someone that they’re looking after to spend a couple of hours daily to give the caregivers a break, help with memory and get the Alzheimer’s patients out of the house,” Pruett said. “We get a lot of questions from citizens coming in wondering if we have Alzheimer’s respite care and we do not, so that was the big thing we wanted to focus on in this new building.”

The current Margie Weaver Center will contain all of the recreational activities for the seniors, including art, jewelry making and exercise classes. The exercise class will move up from the basement into the current dining and event space on the main floor of the center, while the arts and jewelry classes will be able to take over the former exercise room, giving both programs a much needed expansion.

In all, the revitalization work will be completed in phases, with the senior center as priority for planning and the park items being completed as SPLOST VI collections come in.

“It's a much needed facelift,” Henson said. “Long overdue, and there is still a lot of work left to do. We’re just excited for the public to be able to see all the work that’s going on.”