After nearly six months of renovation and more than a year of City Council debate, the new Heritage Center in Lakeville is slated to open Monday when senior citizens, veterans and historical society members begin to move into their offices in the former police station across Holyoke Avenue from City Hall.
"I'm trying to line up people to do a final cleanup and some painting," Wally Potter said last week. Potter, a senior, coordinates seniors and other volunteers who have donated more than 1,500 hours of work to keep the project on budget at just less than $1.1 million, said interim parks director John Hennen.
"It is happening. It's exciting and it will be so nice for seniors," said Linda Walter, senior center coordinator. "We have cleaned out the kitchen and there are boxes everywhere" at the old senior center.
The City Council approved remodeling bids for the long-vacant cop shop by a 3-2 margin in early April. The council was assured by park officials that the project wouldn't require new taxes.
The three groups have raised about $110,000 so far, Hennen said. They plan to raise another $150,000 in coming years to repay part of a nearly $400,000 loan from the city's liquor fund. A 5K fun run fundraiser, organized by two high school students, was to be held today for the center.
The old senior center is for sale, and city officials estimate it will net about $208,000 to help repay the liquor fund loan. The city has shown the center, listed at $380,000, to interested nonprofits and a business, and last week received a letter of intent to buy it, said Dave Olson, community development director.
"It's an offer we felt comfortable enough with to bring to the council," Olson said. "The council agreed and directed us to negotiate a purchase agreement."
When the center, which opened in 1984 in downtown Lakeville, is sold, part of the proceeds must repay a federal construction loan of about $135,000.
The bulk of the Heritage financing -- $527,000 of the $1.0945 million remodeling -- comes from city building and park dedication funds. The senior club, which has about 1,000 members, also contributed $100,000 that members raised over the years for a new home someday.
The renovation includes a new roof, removal of five jail cells, paving a 112-space parking lot, and rebuilding interior space in the 16,686-square-foot building.
A contractor brought in a Bobcat with a jackhammer to take out the jail cells. Potter said dozens of volunteers did sheetrocking, most of the wall demolition and other work.
"The volunteers are a huge positive. I never met so many people willing to help," said construction manager Sam Lauer of Contegrity Group. "They have done a lot of painting, demolition and miscellaneous stuff that often is forgotten."
On a brief tour, Lauer pointed out the center's game room, fitness center, commercial kitchen and several large multi-purpose rooms, including a 176-seat banquet room that will be rented out for community events.
Potter, also a member of the Lakeville Area Historical Society, said the organization is ready to move: "We'll have a lot more usable space" for historical displays, storage and office work.
He had hoped all five council members would support the project. "If they don't want come on board that's their prerogative," Potter said. "It will be done before election time. You can't turn back now."
Mayor Mark Bellows and member Colleen LaBeau have opposed the project as a drain on city resources that could be better used elsewhere. They voted against the final financing plan in early April. A year ago in mid-September, Bellows accused Walter of lying about the project. But a week later the council issued a unanimous statement saying his reference to a lie "was not attributable to Ms. Walter," who had "good performance as the senior center coordinator."
Council Member Matt Little said he looks forward to Heritage, which will have a grand opening in October. He supported the center along with members Laurie Rieb and Kerrin Swecker.
"It's been a big battle," he said, over whether "this is a service the city should offer seniors."
Lakeville's Yellow Ribbon group will have an office in Heritage, said co-founder Sue Palm. She said the volunteer group, which serves families of deployed or returned veterans, has raised nearly half of the $27,000 they agreed to pay for the center kitchen. She said veterans look forward to having a place to hang out, play games or have coffee together.
"It is a super big deal for us," Palm said. She said the group will continue to help with fundraisers, such as a community online auction starting Oct. 11.
Jim Adams 952-746-3283