Bishop updated on senior center

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, received an update on the development of a seniors citizens center he helped garner federal support for, during a trip to the district Wednesday.

Demolition and land clearing has already begun on the site which occupies nearly a full city block outlined by Jefferson and Jackson Streets and Society and 1st Avenues, SOWEGA Council on Aging Executive Director Kay Hind told Bishop Tuesday.

"It's just going to be a great facility," Hind told Bishop. "It's going to accommodate all of our existing programs in one location which will make it very convenient for seniors."

Hind said that the major hurdle to developing a new senior citizen center has been funding. Although plans, to some degree or another, have been in the works for at least five years to get the project going, the recession and a chronic lack of the additional funding needed for the facility has hampered much of the development.

But thanks to grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, private donations and and in-kind donations from organizations like Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, the project is now moving forward, Hind said.

Bishop praised SOWEGA's ability to maintain the highest levels of service despite aging facilities, saying that Albany is overdue for a regional-sized Senior Center.

"It's overdue for a city of this size," Bishop said. "I will say that the services you provide are in line with the top programs in the country, despite your current facilities. Imagine how things will be when you have adequate space?"

Engineering, plumbing, electrical and other construction consultants will walk through the structure on the premises next week to estimate the level of funding that would be needed to get the project completed, Hind said.

In addition to the Senior Center, Bishop took questions and gave information about the Healthcare Reform Bill he voted for that grants access to health insurance for millions more Americans.

"Things have quieted down significantly from last week," Bishop said. "I believe the people are reading the bill and becoming familiar with it and, as they do so, they are finding that they like it."

One of the items discussed by Bishop ended up being his second stop in Albany Thursday. The bill, he said, will allow for the creation of 38 new health and wellness centers throughout the 2nd Congressional District. Following his meeting with SOWEGA, Bishop cut the ribbon on one such facility on the 1700 block of West Broad Avenue.

The centers are designed, Bishop said, to quell fears that the bill would create longer wait times and a shortage of doctors due to the higher number of patients suddenly obtaining health insurance, especially in rural areas.

"These centers will help prevent that by providing more primary care physicians, nurses, medical assistants and others," Bishop said. "These are done in concert with provisions in the bill that offer scholarships, tuition assistance and other incentives for people to get training in those key fields."