ROTTERDAM -- The Rotterdam Senior Citizens' Center on Hamburg Street will be closed for up to another month, as the town makes repairs from an August flooding incident.
The former elementary school, which dates from the early 20th century, was closed after a broken upstairs toilet caused damage on Aug. 8. The town is taking the opportunity to bring the building's fire and smoke alarms up to modern code.
"We have a unique opportunity, but at the same time, it's been difficult," said Town Supervisor Steven A. Tommasone. "We've been working very aggressively to get our seniors back into the building as soon as possible."
The situation, however, has left seniors without a place for meals or other activities, prompting some to voice frustrations at a Town Board meeting last week.
"They told us it was only going to be for a few days, and the next thing you know, they were ripping walls out," said Joseph Miele, 74, an officer of the Rotterdam Senior Association and president of the Woestina Young at Heart Seniors.
Miele said the senior center would normally offer many learning and exercise classes, as well as inexpensive meals at the Brass Rail Cafe, which suffered some of the worst water damage.
"It's a community center. It's used by everybody, and they haven't told the people of Rotterdam as a whole what is going on," Miele said. "As a taxpayer, I'm concerned; as a senior, I'm totally upset with the whole thing."
Tommasone said progress is being made. He said a team from Quick Response was called in to dry out soaked walls and clean up debris, but that work was not complete until last week. In the interim, town officials decided to make building code upgrades before re-opening the building.
"Our center's systems were not to current code," Tommasone said. "We decided to keep the center closed until we could get new fire detection and smoke alarms in the building."
The alarm system installation is being done by Tyco International, at an estimated cost of $42,000, which the town believes insurance will cover. Once that work is done, undamaged parts of the building will be re-opened to the seniors, but Tommasone said work in the areas that were most-heavily damaged will be going on for months.
The area where the main activities room and cafeteria are located suffered the most damage.
The building was re-opened for use as a polling place for the Sept. 13 primaries, but Tommasone said that was done with "fire watchers" in the building, in lieu of an alarm system.
"Now we have to go up to code -- assess electric and plumbing systems and bring it all up to code. I don't want to shortcut this," Tommasone said.
Exterior access improvements are expected to cost about $39,000, and that is expected to be a town cost, Tommasone said.
He said the town hasn't been able to provide another space for seniors to meet. Other than the town hall, which doesn't have the facilities for hosting meals, there are no town-owned buildings big enough, he said.