News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 21, 2014

Repair funds needed for senior center

Asbestos-wrapped steam pipe leaked over weekend

TERRE HAUTE — The former synagogue that is now the Wabash Senior Activity Center in Terre Haute is itself a senior citizen of sorts.

The building, approximately 100 years old, is having some aging problems associated with a leaking basement steam pipe that’s ruining the building’s newly finished wood floor.

“This has happened just over the weekend,” said Jan Hayes, an employee of the center, pointing to a raised portion of the floor not far from the kitchen.

A few feet away, the center’s executive director, Josie Blake, stands over a section of the floor that has warped upward in the shape of a big triangle. It’s clearly a hazard for anyone walking in that area, so Blake has that section of floor closed off to foot traffic.

“We need help desperately,” Blake said.

A steam pipe in the basement just under the floor has sprung three leaks, according to plumbers who have inspected the problem. Steam is flooding a small, narrow crawl space under the floor, quickly warping the center’s floor, a little at a time.

The blonde floors have recently been refinished, Blake said, making the damage caused by the steam especially irksome.

What’s more, the repair costs are going to be high, and the center’s insurance company has – so far – declined coverage, the director said.

Complicating matters, the steam pipe is enclosed in asbestos. No one will repair the broken pipe until all the asbestos is removed, itself a costly process, Blake noted.

One estimate to replace the worn section of metal pipe is nearly $6,000. The center has already hired someone to remove some of the asbestos but has not yet received the bill, Blake said. More must be removed before the pipe can be repaired, however.

And none of these costs includes the price of replacing the damaged flooring. The center has no idea yet how much that will cost, but it is unlikely to be cheap.

The Wabash Senior Activity Center is a United Way agency and has been a place for seniors to gather for almost 50 years. It provides several activities, including exercise classes, games, crafts, art classes and even trips abroad. About 17 percent of the center’s budget comes from the United Way. The rest is raised through member activities and fundraisers, donations and membership fees.

Once a month, the center hosts “Dine with a Doc” at which a local doctor speaks with dozens of seniors over lunch. It also hosts “Lunch with a Lawyer” once each month.

“We do things to get people out of the house,” Blake said pointing to a sign on the door reading, “Caution: Adults at Play.”

The Senior Center has more than 400 members and also welcomes non-members to its events and activities. Seniors, mostly ages 60 to 90, come from the entire Wabash Valley and beyond, stretching as far as Mattoon, Ill., Blake said. “We don’t turn anybody away,” she said.

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