LEMOORE — In October 2014, the Lemoore Senior Center received a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for rehabilitation of its facilities, but work has been delayed.

Finally, progress seems to have started.

At the city's council meeting Tuesday, Lemoore’s Public Works Director Nathan Olson said the final plans for the Senior Center were approved, and next week the plans go to bid on the center, located at 789 S. Lemoore Ave.

Olson said the bid will be open for 30 days and he looks to have a contract to bring to the council near the end of April to get started on the Senior Center revamping.

“Delays are always frustrating,” said Richard Rea, board president for the senior center, adding he’s thrilled things are finally starting to get going after years of stalls.

The city first applied for a grant in 2013 but submitted an incomplete application. Then, subsequent problems with the application further delayed getting the award. Once it was awarded, plans took longer than expected, again pushing back work.

In October 2015, Kings Community Development Corp. — a nonprofit firm that helped Lemoore snag the $1.4 million grant — filed a legal claim accusing the city of breaching a contract that would have allowed the organization to administer the federal block grant money.

Previous Sentinel reports stated the Lemoore City Council approved an agreement with KCDC in September 2013 to allow the group to prepare a grant application for improvements at the senior center. As proposed, KCDC would have worked without pay unless the application was successful. KCDC would then be paid to administer the grant.

A section chief for the block grant program in Sacramento then told the city council that its arrangement with KCDC was considered “quid-pro-quo,” which is not allowed when using federal funds. The city had to offer the contract as part of an open, fair and competitive bidding process.

Linda Beyersdorf was hired by the city of Lemoore as a management analyst in the Public Works department in September 2016 and said the first job she was given was to clear general conditions and put together environmental packages to show to the state, which were approved. The city opened bids in November of last year. The grant allocated a little over $1.1 million for construction and the rest would pay administrative costs, according to a city staff report.

In December 2016, bids were taken to the city council, but the bids were higher than what the grant is, so they were rejected.

Olson and Beyersdorf went to work again and the scope of the original plan was changed and finalized this week. Olson said the main building will be getting roof repairs, new air conditioning and heating units, energy efficient lighting and new paint. The nutrition building will also get a new roof and be upgraded to be more energy efficient, he said.

“It’ll be like brand new again,” Olson said, adding that making the center more energy efficient will in turn lower the cost for the center.

Olson said everything, including the parking lots, will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said there will be features like automatic opening doors for those who are in wheelchairs, and the center will also get an upgraded fire suppression system.

Rea said senior center patrons are curious to know details and are always asking him for updates. He said he is looking forward to anything the center can get in terms of improvements, especially making the center more energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing.

The improvements will increase the ability of the center to rent out the facility for functions and events, Rea said. He said without bingo games every Wednesday night and some private donations, there’s not much for the center in the way of funding.

Rea said the center had to quit serving lunches on Wednesdays and Mondays because there were hardly any people going to eat. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the center only averages around 30 people for lunch, he said.

Rea said his only goal is to bring more people to the senior center, and he hopes the improvements will help. The city has until the end of October to spend the grant money without an extension. Olson said he is doing all he can to avoid asking for an extension.

The city is not in possession of the block grant funds yet, and Beyersdorf said it’s her job to make sure the Public Works department is following all regulations to get the funds. If after 30 days the new bid is approved by the council and an invoice is received, she said the invoice will be submitted to the state for reimbursement.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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