The opening of a new community center here brings opportunities for seniors and others in the community to dictate what types of programs and services will be available.
The center at 855 Alder Ave. was the former home of the Incline Village library for Washoe County. The center had a soft opening on March 12 and currently is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. — but the county hopes to increase hours and services in the coming months.
Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler spearheaded development of the community center, earmarking $75,000 in 2016 to help bring the building up to Americans with Disabilities Acts standards and retrofit concrete sidewalks. Berkbigler also added an additional $11,000 to the center's development from the commissioner's discretionary fund, and operation of the center will be added into next year's budget.
Berkbigler says the Incline Village community was underrepresented when it came to a gathering place for seniors and the community in general. Although the Incline Village General Improvement District operates a 37,000-square-foot recreation center at 980 Incline Village Way, programming to be developed at the community center will complement what's available in the community rather than compete with services available at the rec center.
"It's important for Washoe County to be up there and fill this gap to have a social gathering place for the community," she says. "A third of the population (in Incline Village) lives there full time, and there are a number of seniors. It's difficult for them to get down to the valley, and the seniors there wanted a place where they could go and play cards or visit and get out of their homes."
Prior to development of the community center the old library building was mostly unused; however, the U.S. Forest Service leases office space there, and the Tahoe Transportation District and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency also use a small office there several days a week.
Lease payments from those agencies help cover some of overhead costs, Berkbigler notes. As an added benefit, each agency needed internet access and phone lines, which allows the county to tap into those services.
Abby Badolato, coordinator for Washoe County Human Services Agency, says the center was developed not only for seniors but for all residents in Incline Village. There's plenty of space for people to play games, cards watch television or movies, she says, and there's also a 24-seat conference space that can be reserved for business and other functions Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The conference space does not have video conferencing or other amenities found in competing spaces, however.
Additional phases of development are slated for the near future. However, the county is seeking input on what types of services should be offered, Berkbigler says.
"One of nice things about it, and the reason why we are calling it a community center, is that it is a large enough building to have space for seniors to do what they want and at same time we have space to allow public meetings and other things," she says. "Most of our senior centers provide food, but we are not doing that there.
"The seniors up there can come up with the kinds of things they want and like. However, it's a gathering place not just for seniors but for the community in general. We are still developing what the programming will look like, and we have been surveying those who will use the center to get a baseline of what they want."
The county plans an open house on May 18 from noon to 1:30 p.m. so Incline Village residents can tour the facility. Representatives from a wide range of county departments will be in attendance.
"We really want it to be a hub for services for Washoe County in Incline Village," Berkbigler says. "We want to make sure everyone understands how important that part of the populations is to us. We want to cover their needs and concerns. It is important for us to look to all our citizens and what their needs are regardless of where they live."
The county hopes to expand the community center's hours in the summer and have it open five days a week. The center is staffed by volunteers, and additional volunteers are crucial to its success, Berkbigler notes.
"Volunteers are so important in every phase of the business we do," she says. "There is nothing quite as important as volunteers who help us get through all the things we have going on. Government has a limited amount of funds, and we have a lot of issues to deal with. We use volunteers in a lot of areas, and there are lot of people who want to take part and volunteer. We are so grateful that they are there and can work with us. It is amazing to me as commissioner how many citizens we have in Washoe County who want to help and volunteer."