Proposed South Side senior center hinges on public opinion, funding

About 35 people showed up to give their input at STEP Inc.’s South Williamsport Senior Activity Center’s public meeting Monday evening at borough hall.

Fred Shrimp, director, STEP Office of Aging, clarified the activity center is not a certainty yet, as it depends on funding – the total will be known by December – and local seniors’ opinions.

Shrimp and Rachelle Abbott, STEP director of planning, showed artist renderings of the single-level proposed center, whose highlights are an open activity space with movable dividers, kitchen, handicap-accessible restrooms, patio, storage and direct access to South Williamsport Park complex.

“These plans are still in draft form,” Shrimp said, “and we welcome your ideas.”

The most important aspect is the center would be the seniors, Shrimp said, as it would revolve around seniors’ wishes. The current senior center is at Messiah Lutheran Church, and while they’ve been gracious and good hosts for more than 30 years, he said, the new center at the corner of Charles Street and East Central Avenue would be “an asset to the community,” as hours will follow desired activities.

“We’re changing from a daytime activity center to a full-time center,” Shrimp said.

Ray Humphrey, 74, member of the advisory council for the Clinton County Community Center, spoke positively about the proposal.

“You can be owners of your senior center,” Humphrey said. “Seniors are going to run their own community centers.”

Most of the attendees go to the current senior center and were given a survey for activities in which they’d be interested.

Some raised concerns how they would get to the proposed center. Shrimp and Abbott answered both the STEP van and a city bus would be available for transportation.

Other attendants wanted to know who would be able to use the building and which groups would get priority. Shrimp responded that while it will be used for intergenerational activities, senior groups would absolutely get priority since it’s senior centered. An advisory council made up of the community’s seniors would help determine what activities will be held, he said.

The proposed center is somewhat smaller than the current one, as the current one is 3,600 square feet, and the proposed one’s activity space is 2,500 square feet, Abbott said. Seating would be between 125 and 150. There are five senior centers in the county.

Those interested in giving their input may contact Abbott at 601-9501 or email

The $670,000 proposed center, which may be completed by 2015, is the former DCNR Bureau of Forestry’s Tiadaghton Forest Service Office, and STEP will lease it for 30 years for $1 with renewals. Funding sources may be the First Community Foundation, state Department of Community and Economic Development, Park Home, and Pennsylvania Office of Aging.