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HERMITAGE Officials propose senior housing



Published: Wed, August 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Hermitage has between $250,000 and $300,000 it can use as seed money.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- City officials want to see some senior citizen rental housing built in Hermitage and they're looking for some experts to help.

City commissioners met in separate sessions Tuesday with representatives of Mercer County Community Action Agency and Mercer County Housing Authority in response to requests for proposals from the city.

Both agencies expressed an interest in forming a partnership with the city to oversee and manage a senior citizen complex.

City Manager Gary Hinkson said no site has been selected nor do the commissioners have any preconceived idea of how large a project should be built.

Available funds: Hermitage can't finance a development alone, but does have between $250,000 and $300,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money that can be used as seed money to attract other grants or loans, he said.

DeWitt Boosel, housing authority executive director, said his agency has some development funds it could also use as seed money for the project, although he wasn't specific on just how much might be available.

His agency would also be willing to pick up the estimated $10,000 to $15,000 cost of a market analysis to determine if a senior citizen housing development is even needed.

Both Boosel and Ronald Errett, community action agency chief executive officer, said a market survey would be required before any funding agency, government or private, could be approached for support.

One idea: Errett wasn't offering any development money from his agency but did suggest a less expensive way to do an initial market survey.

He said the city might be looking at a complex of 20 to 36 apartments, but added that is only a guess. About 25 percent of the city's nearly 17,000 residents are age 65 or older, he said.

Errett suggested the city could do a direct mailing to all Hermitage residents or put a reply coupon in the local newspaper to gauge interest in such a project, he said.

Support services needed: Both agencies stressed the importance of support services for residents of a senior citizen complex, although the housing authority, which already owns and operates four such complexes in the Shenango Valley, would appear to have a stronger support program in place.

Hinkson said the city commissioners must decide which agency they want to use for the project.

The commissioners have been talking about a development like this for years and have had a number of similar requests from the public, he said.

Whatever happens won't happen quickly.

Both agencies indicated the planning, financing and construction of such a facility would likely take at least two years.




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