Drive for PACC expansion back in the forefront

The Perham City Council and Community Center officials spent nearly two hours Sept. 20 re-visiting strategy and re-charging their batteries for another run at a proposed $1.2 million expansion of the PACC.

The Perham City Council and Community Center officials spent nearly two hours Sept. 20 re-visiting strategy and re-charging their batteries for another run at a proposed $1.2 million expansion of the PACC.

In a separate session Sept. 21, the PACC advisory board also discussed the matter at length.

The project has been bogged down for several months for a variety of reasons.

Among the key hang-ups appears to be foggy public perception of why the need; and whom the Perham Area Community Center expansion will serve.

Another issue is cost.


"The reception we've been getting at city hall has been cool," said city manager Bob Louiseau. "People feel the price tag is too high."

While the project appears spendy on the surface, PACC board members and others believe that the facility must expand to meet future demand.

"Expansion, in the long range, is in the best interest of the PACC and the community," said board member Jim Holper.

Further more, Perham needs to prepare to meet the demands of retiring baby boomers, who will be flooding into the lake country over the next two decades. PACC manager Kevin Nelson noted that he gave six tours of the facility over a one week span to prospective members--all of them retirees who are moving into the area.

"That's the population we're getting in this area," said Nelson.

After reviewing numerous options, and preparing numerous proposals, Tony Stoll, Baker, Hogan and Houx Architecture and Planning, completed a plan for a $1.2 million addition to the PACC. The expansion, which received informal approval from PACC and city officials, would create new space, change the office layout, improve the entrances--and create an area for use as a Perham Senior Citizens Center.

Presently, a group averaging less than two dozen, gathers at the Perham Volunteer Fire Department for the noon meals. The firehall was intended as a temporary location, as a new senior center is developed.

The proposed PACC senior center would be a new area, with a seating capacity of about 60, kitchen facilities and other features. Seniors would use it about five hours a day--which is only 25 hours in a 90 hour week, noted Johnson. The rest of those hours would be available for other purposes.


"The PACC has an opportunity to be more successful in attracting seniors as members," said Stoll, adding that the additional space will also serve other segments of the community. "The seniors would use the space from about 10 to 3. But it would be a shame to have the space vacant the rest of the would be foolish not to have a way to utilize it."

The senior center aspect of the project has become both a positive and a negative.

"There is a public perception out there that this expansion is just for 17 members of the senior citizen center," said PACC board member Bill Parks. "This expansion is intended to better serve everybody, young and old...We need a public education program to explain that this addition isn't just a senior center."

And that's exactly what city officials and PACC board members resolved to do last week.

Mayor Vince Pankonin and several others will be pulling together information that will more clearly explain the benefit of the PACC expansion to the broader community.

Presentations for organizations, surveys of city residents, and other public information plans will be formed.

"We need to change our whole philosophy right now, and call it what it is--a PACC expansion, not a senior citizen center addition," said John Turgeon, facilities manager of the PACC.

The city and the PACC board also need to come to terms on how to proceed--and how to finance the project.


Louiseau asked Stoll if an analysis could be done to determine what percentage of the PACC could be quantified as "senior related." The funding could possibly be broken down accordingly, said Louiseau. If 30 percent of the facility was determined as important to seniors, for example, the city could fund 30 percent of the project. The PACC board would raise the other 70 percent. The possibility of a 50-50 split has also been suggested.

Township support would also be sought, since the PACC serves as many individuals from outside city limits as it does Perham residents. And that number will only grow as retirees settle in at the lakes.

"There's a perception by residents of the city that they will pay for the whole thing...and they say 'how about people out in the surrounding townships,'" said Mayor Pankonin.

It was also suggested that the school analyze the benefit it receives from the PACC. The school relies on the facility for sports practice and training--and especially use of the swimming pool. It was suggested to go to the school board for support--including financial support.

"Long range, it makes the most sense to expand the PACC," commented Stoll.

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