Increased accessibility among Community Center upgrades

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The Whitefish Community Center is set to get a number of upgrades as a result of a Community Development Block Grant. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

The Whitefish Community Center is set to get some upgrades this fall, many which will improve accessibility for handicap users.

Flathead County was awarded a roughly $400,000 Community Development Block Grant in 2015 to make improvements to senior centers in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Kalispell. The county is also providing matching dollars of about $100,000.

A portion of the grant money is going to improvements specifically for the Whitefish center.

County grantwriter Whitney Aschenwald said about $85,000 is being spent on construction costs at the Whitefish center, though design costs and other fees are also part of the Whitefish work, but are lumped together for the entire project.

“There was an evaluation of county buildings,” she said. “It’s primarily to make [Americans with Disabilities Act] and general improvements to the centers.”

Work in Whitefish is tentatively set to begin in November.

“The biggest piece for the Whitefish center is renovations and remodel of the restrooms,” she said. “Pretty much everything in the restrooms needed to be remodeled.”

Work includes changes to the doorway and bathroom stall widths among other items. Door clearance and sign heights throughout the building will also be adjusted to meet ADA requirements.

“There was lots of little details for ADA compliance,” she noted.

The exterior of the center will also get a fresh coat of paint.

Chuck Wilhoit, who serves on the community center board, says the grant money and upgrades that come with it are welcome.

“We’re very pleased,” he said. “We look forward to it.”

Wilhoit pointed to one upgrade — installing guards on the center’s roof to divert snow — as being beneficial.

“It will protect seniors and others from walking on the sidewalk from falling snow and ice,” he said.

He notes that the Whitefish center, along with the other senior centers in the county all manage their enterprises as efficiently as possible.

Part of the process involved an audit of the Whitefish center to determine necessary upgrades.

“We rely on business support and grants we apply for,” he said. “When this first came along we didn’t know how much we would get, but we didn’t want to see money wasted.”

Community Development Block Grants provides money for a wide range of community development needs. While the grants provide federal funding, the program is administered at the state level.

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