Township, county and state elected officials plunged their shovels into the wet ground on Thursday to signify the official beginning of a project to expand the South Brunswick Senior Center.
"I think (the groundbreaking) certainly exemplifies the dedication that the mayor and council have for the senior community here in South Brunswick," said Township Manager Bernard Hvozdovic as he welcomed a crowd of about 100 people to the ceremony. "Now in addition to everything we do here and all the programming, we'll have the added emphasis on health and wellness in the new facility."
The expansion will add about 10,000-square feet near the rear entrance of the existing auditorium at the Senior Center. Director of the Office on Aging Christine Wildemuth said the expansion includes a small room for low impact exercise equipment that allows members to work out, in addition to exam rooms. The wellness center will also host physical fitness activities, health and wellness lectures, and doctor screenings through a partnership with local hospitals.
Elected officials on hand included Mayor Frank Gambatese, South Brunswick Township Council members Joseph Camarota, Charles Carley, Chris Killmurray and John O'Sullivan, Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-16), and Freeholders Ronald Rios and Carol Barrett Bellante, the former Deputy Mayor of South Brunswick. Both freeholders were praised for their assistance in securing a $1 million match for the township's contribution for the expansion. The funding for both the township and county's contributions will come from both entities' open space trust funds.
The groundbreaking marked the which began when Bellante was still on the Township Council, and continued as Councilman Carley became liaison to the center. Carley praised the work of hundreds of people over the last few years on the expansion, as a health and wellness component was constantly mentioned as a necessity.
"There was a unanimous sentiment that we need more space for wellness programs," Carley said.
Also praised for their work on the project was Senior Center Director Christine Wildemuth, the Senior Center Advisory Council led by member Jean Starks, along with the who was mentioned a driving force behind the project.
"What we wanted to do was make use of every inch of space," said architect Peter Campisano, of USA Architects Planners + Interior Designers. "We didn't just want to build for circulation. The central commons flows into the multi-purpose room, which provides superior flexibility. The (Senior Center Advisory Council) came up with what was important, what they wanted to prioritize, and it just grew from there."
The contract for the expansion was awarded to Tekton Development, who was the second lowest bidder at $2.06 million, after the low bidder was rejected for a number of deficiencies in the bid specifications.
Of the nearly 44,000 people living in South Brunswick, about 22 percent are between the ages of 45 and 64-years-old, and about 7 percent are over the age of 65. The Senior Center currently has about 3,100 active members. The center, which was built in the 1970’s, was long overdue for an upgrade, according to Carley. The center's current multi-purpose room is regularly used for a variety of programs and is also employed as a shelter during emergencies like Hurricane Irene last year.
"This is a great day for South Brunswick," Gambatese said. "This is without a doubt the best senior center, not only in the county, but I believe in the state. Many (other mayors) say to me how do you guys continue to spend that money without opposition from the rest of the residents in the town. I tell them very simple, we have a community of people that really care about each other. It's not the seniors versus the younger people or people just moving into town. We work together."
The addition of 10,000-square feet will bring the total area of the center to about 26,000-square feet. Campisano said the project is expected to be complete by May of 2013.
"Right when the flowers are blooming, we'll have the opening," he said.
Be the first to know. Follow Patch on Facebook for up to the minute South Brunswick news.