Local senior citizens land at Nicholas Center

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Director of the Marshalltown Senior Citizens Center Bonnie Reeder gestures toward a sign used for bingo earlier this week in Suite N at the Nicholas Center. Bingo is one of the organization’s most popular activities. Board games, computer use, crafts and shuffleboard are also popular.

Home, sweet home.

It may lack the amenities of its former home at 20 E. State St, but the Marshalltown Senior Citizen Center has a place to call their own at the Nicholas Center, 2501 S. Center St., Suite N. It opened for business Monday.

“We signed a one-year lease,” Director Bonnie Reeder said. “We may be here longer and will make it (the suite) work.”

Paintings, games and bingo equipment had been placed willy-nilly throughout several rooms in Suite N, as the group gradually moves equipment from its former home.

“We do have a room now for crafts,” she said, pointing to a separate room with a window. “It should be an ideal place for our crafters, who have long wanted a separate area.”

Regardless of the new location, Reeder said a craft sale is planned at Suite N Dec. 1.

The group rented and occupied the first floor of the 98-year-old two-story landmark building on East State Street 46 years while the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging rented the second floor.

The building is owned by the city of Marshalltown, but it was damaged in the July 19 EF-3 tornado and has not re-opened.

City officials closed it and other city buildings to assess damage.

While other city buildings have since re-opened, 20 E. State St. remains closed.

The wrecking ball awaits, as the city is anxious to demolish it and sell the site and others nearby to developers.

“I am recommending we move forward with demolition for multiple reasons,” City Administrator Jessica Kinser wrote. “The $1.2 million (in replacement insurance for damages suffered from the tornado) is to put the building back into the condition it was prior to the tornado, which we know was a building costing the General Fund $30,000 annually beyond the rents received. The second reason is that $1.2 million will not address the code updates that would need to occur to the building in a renovation. Central to a code update was installing a new elevator.

That cost was considered prohibitive.

City of Marshalltown Housing and Community Development Director Michelle Spohnheimer and and Marshall Economic Development President Tom Deimerly told the Marshalltown City Council at its meeting earlier this week there is strong interest in the site and others by developers.

“You have to strike while the iron is hot,” Deimerly said.

The city had been eyeing the site for development well before the tornado, and reported to the city council it was losing money annually going back to fiscal year 2014. Utility expenses in the building make up most of the deficit, Kinser said.

“Related to the high expenditures to keep the facility open is the overall condition of the building,” Kinser said. “The city has not invested the resources to keep the building in a good operating condition.”

Earlier this year and well before the tornado hit, city officials had been in discussions with the Senior Center Board of Directors to relocate due to deferred maintenance on the building as well as expensive elevator upgrades.

Marshalltown city councilors voted 5-0 at Monday night’s council meeting to accept an actual cash value payment of $692,571.96 from the city’s insurer for 20 E. State St.

The plan is to take $500,000 from the $692,571.96 settlement to demolish the property and clear the site.

It would be packaged for sale with property at 12 E. State St. and 26 E. State St.

As for the seniors, Reeder said it is likely the group will find a permanent home at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Senior Center board of directors has been negotiating with city officials to use space in the mammoth building.

However, no plans have been finalized.

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For more information contact Mike Donahey, 641-753-6611, or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com