Ground-breaking ceremony officially begins construction of new $4.3 million senior center |

Ground-breaking ceremony officially begins construction of new $4.3 million senior center

Photos and Story by Steve Ranson
A ground-breaking ceremony was held Wednesday for the new senior center, the William N. Pennington Life Center. Government officials, guests and members of the Coalition of Seniors Board participated in the ceremony. From left are Fallon council members James Richardson, Robert Erickson and Kelly Frost; former director Jamie Lee; Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford; and county commissioners Bus Scharmann, Dale Erquiaga and Pete Olsen.

City and county leaders talked of a dream coming true Wednesday morning as the official ground-breaking ceremony launched the construction of a new $4.3 million, 15,000-square foot senior center north of the museum on Maine Street.

The new facility will be known as the William N. Pennington Life Center, and construction is expected to take about 300 days. Commissioners awarded the bid to Ray Ferguson Construction, and the architect is Frank Woodliff III.

County Commissioner Bus Scharmann, president of the Coalition of Senior Citizens Board, said the community has had a special place in its heart for senior citizens, especially during the past 45 years starting when the Soroptimist International of Fallon began preparing and serving meals to when the city, county and a volunteer board formed.

“Today, the city and county and a coalition for seniors, along with many volunteers, run the senior center,” Scharmann said, adding the current facility is housed in a 75-year-old building. “It’s time to construct a new building and meet the growing demand of our rising population of seniors.”

“It’s time to construct a new building and meet the growing demand of our rising population of seniors.”County Commissioner Bus ScharmannPresident of the Coalition of Senior Citizens

Scharmann said 18 months ago both the city and county applied for a grant to the William N. Pennington Foundation and last summer signed a construction agreement to build a new senior center. The $2 million grant, which is matched with contributions from the city, county and the the Coaliton of Senior Citizens, will cover the project’s first two phases, which includes the base bid for construction with a section of the building shelled out to complete in the second phase. Phase II includes a proposed beauty salon, retail space, multi-purpose rental area and a wellness exam area.

Scharmann said the new facility was needed because Churchill County, according to latest U.S. Census information, has 7,000 residents 55 years and older, which is 25 percent of the county’s population.

He said Churchill County will have more than the national trend as the area continues to rise in the number of older citizens fueled by the Baby Boomers who retire and become senior citizens.

Furthermore, Scharmann said the center currently delivers 180 dinners each day as part of its Meals on Wheels program and serves between 70-100 seniors each day, Monday through Friday, in the dining room. Scharmann said the dining room allows seniors to enjoy quality meals and mingle with others.

Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford said he has been involved with the senior center for 28 years. starting in 1987 as a councilman. Then Mayor Robert “Bob” Erickson appointed Tedford to the Senior Center Board. From the late 1980s to the present, Tedford said he and many others never thought the day would arrive for them to see the construction of a new facility.

“Today, to me, it’s an almost impossible dream to be standing here,” Tedford said.

The mayor said he knew there was a need to take care of the senior population, and he thanked the community, volunteers and service organizations such as the Soroptimists that “stepped up” to help the senior citizens. Tedford said city and county tried for 28 years to leave the current building.

Tedford also thanked county Comptroller Alan Kalt for his efforts in pursuing the grant for the community.

“When they (Pennington Foundation) stepped forward, you see where we are today,” Tedford added.

Since he became mayor in the mid-1990s, Tedford continued to take a strong interest in the people for whom he serves.

“My administration starting in 1995 was to strengthen the senior and the youth in our community who sometimes fall through the cracks,” Tedford said.

Commissioner Pete Olsen, chairman of the Churchill County Commission, said people will remember Wednesday as a milestone.

“You don’t get too many days in your life like this,” Olsen said of the ceremony, acknowledging the people and groups who put their time and effort into making the ground-breaking ceremony a reality.

As with Tedford’s remarks, Olsen said without Kalt’s dedication and work, the project would never have occurred.

Former senior center director Jamie Lee said she appreciated everyone who had a role in the project and especially the center.

“Behind every senior we hope there is a family member or caregiver who will support and continue to do so,” she added.