ROTTERDAM -- It has been more than five months since a broken toilet flooded half of the Rotterdam Senior Center, but the building is still months from full restoration.
With the low-cost Brass Rail Cafe and three meeting rooms out of commission, seniors are growing frustrated, though town officials said they are taking the time needed to make sure the aged building is properly repaired and modernized.
"While many of us would like to move more assertively, we have to take the time and protect the interest of the taxpayers and bring it up to code so it's safe for people to use, and hopefully we can offer even more services in the future," said Town Supervisor Steven A. Tommasone.
The building was closed for three months, but while seniors have been able to use parts of the building since early November, half of it is still off-limits, including the Brass Rail Cafe, which was directly underneath where the toilet broke. The cafe was a major draw for seniors, who are now trying to hold programs in a limited amount of space.
"They're juggling, but it's not fair the way they're juggling," said Joseph Miele, an officer in the Rotterdam Senior Citizens and president of the Woestina Young at Heart Seniors. "People want to be able to go to a restaurant and get meal for three or four dollars.
"They don't tell you what they're doing. One person tells you one thing, and then someone else tells you another thing. Because I'm an officer, people are always asking me what's going on. People approach me at the center, they approach me in the supermarket, asking what's going on. There's no need for them to ignore our needs the way they are."
But Tommasone said seniors aren't being ignored; it's just that doing a proper repair job takes planning and time.
A leak from a second-floor high-pressure toilet on Aug. 8 did serious damage inside the center, which is in a two-story former elementary school on Hamburg Street. Though the leak took place while people were in the building, and it was stopped fairly quickly, drop ceilings were soaked and needed to be removed, and much of the flooring needs to be replaced.
An emergency response company handled the initial cleanup, which took several weeks, and after that, an alarm company installed new wiring and alarms to bring the building into code compliance and improve security. Tommasone said the town plans to also make extensive upgrades.
In December, the Town Board accepted $198,246 as an initial insurance payment, though negotiations for additional settlement money are ongoing, Tommasone said.
The Town Board also hired C.T. Male, an engineering and consulting firm, to come up with a repair and renovation plan for the structure, at a cost of $36,900. The town is also in the process of hiring a part-time code enforcement officer who will have some of the expertise needed to oversee the work, Tommasone said.
In addition to the post-flood repairs, the town has most of a $354,000 state building renovation grant received in 2015 still available.
"Nothing has been slowed down," Tommasone said. "C.T. Male is putting a schedule together now. I'm hopeful we can go out to bid in the spring on everything that needs to be done there."
He said restoration of the cafe really can't happen until all the other work is done, for health and safety reasons.
"We are moving forward with making the senior center better than it has ever been," Tommasone said.
Miele, who is 74, said part of the frustration is that seniors hear conflicting information, but he acknowledged the repairs are going to take time, and that plumbing and electrical work needs to be part of the work. "The bidding process is going to take time," he said. "You're probably looking at a year, year-and-a-half to get things done."
He said some seniors now go to the meal center at the Hiberian Hall in Schenectady for lunch when they should be in Schenectady.
"There's no need for them to ignore our needs the way they are," he said.
When in full operation, the building was used on a regular basis by hundreds of senior citizens. The senior center offered games, classes and breakfast and lunch.