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Elma seniors turn out to support portico for center

For the second straight year, Elma senior citizens are hoping that their quest to secure funding for a portico at the senior center will be granted.

Several seniors turned out Wednesday night to give their project a boost during a public hearing on community development block grant funding.

Gary Brooks, chairman of the Elma Betterment Group, said the portico would be beneficial during inclement weather because it would allow drivers to pull up to the entrance to pick up and discharge passengers without exposure to the elements.

Trudy Weber echoed that sentiment.

“Many visitors come in the pouring rain, in wheelchairs and walkers,” Weber said. “We hope that we can get approval this year because we don’t have the time. Some of us won’t be here next year, and we want to enjoy it.”

Town Supervisor Dennis Powers noted the project ­– which also includes a new parking area to accommodate up to 12 handicapped spaces – was considered “a very worthy project” by Erie County’s CDBG committee last year.

“But there just wasn’t enough funds” to pay for it, Powers added.

Weber noted that the center caters to more than town seniors, that veterans and other groups such as the Kiwanis Club and Historical Society also use the center, which is also the site of several concerts during the summer.

“This is not just for seniors – it’s a community center,” Weber said. “The portico would be a simple item and won’t cost millions of dollars.”

Council member Michael Nolan said the center, built in the 1990s, needs a proper entry, and pointed out that the current main entrance is nondescript. He added that several of the center’s members get around with the aid of wheelchairs, canes and walkers.

“Almost any type of facility you visit has a drive-through with an overhang where you can let someone with a disability out and not have to worry about someone falling due to inclement weather,” Nolan said. “I don’t think there’s a better project for funding.”

Powers, who sits on the Erie County block grant committee, said all proposals come under review in November. He also added that town supervisors are prohibited from voting on projects in their own jurisdictions.