For nearly a year Josie Leyba participated in activities at the San Jose Senior Center.
In the coming days she and other senior citizens will have extra room as the City of Carlsbad moves to a new senior center on Kircher Street.
In early June the City of Carlsbad announced plans to move senior citizen functions from the current San Jose Senior Center to the Alejandro Ruiz Senior Center, a former elementary school in south Carlsbad.
Senior citizen meals served by the Southeast New Mexico Community Action Corporation (SENMCAC) moved to a temporary location at the Head Start building at 915 San Jose Boulevard.
Leyba spent Tuesday morning in an arts and crats class anticipating the big move, which is set for the week of June 27.
She is looking forward to additional space at the new senior center along with senior meals being under one roof.
“The food is a hop and a skip and when were there. We don’t have to drive like we’ve had to for the last two weeks,” Leyba said.
Besides the arts and crafts projects, Leyba liked weekly blood pressure checks offered at the San Jose Senior Center.
“I just enjoy being around friends and family at this time and it’s growing,” she said.
City of Carlsbad Municipal Services Director Angie Barrios-Testa said major work was conducted after the City acquired funds nearly four years ago from the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department (ALTSD).
“This project in particular includes retrofitting an old school building to fit the needs of a senior center population, therefore, it involves many changes to accommodate for the different use and population change,” she said. “The City has been able to budget other local funds to help with Phase 1 and to leverage funds for future phases.”
ALTSD Spokesperson Hannah Long said the City of Carlsbad received $750,000 in federal funds from Community Development Block Grants through the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration (DFA).
She said the City submitted a request of $760,000 for renovation funds through ALTSD in 2020.
Barrios-Testa said the City was working on completion of Phase One of the project due to delays from COVID-19 and construction related challenges.
“Most large-scale projects require some phasing due to the time and resources it can take to plan, design, and construct,” she said.
The City of Carlsbad estimated $6.5 million would be needed for renovations, according to the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan (ICIP) for 2024 through 2028.
More than $2 million of the project has not been funded and $4 million of funds were acquired so far, read the ICIP.
Barrios-Testa said the San Jose Senior Center has around 12,000 square feet of space for senior activities. The new center has around 32,000 square feet.
“What this means is the new Alejandro Ruiz Senior Center will have a much larger facility where seniors can enjoy the activities, they are accustomed to and they will have a newly renovated facility with significant opportunity for expansion,” she said.
Barrios-Testa said future plans included an outdoor recreation area with picnic tables.
She said senior citizens could eat outside or inside.
New kitchen equipment, security cameras and a new heating and air conditioning are new features at the Alejandro Ruiz Senior Center.
“The current building is at capacity. They are not able to add any new activities or services, and the parking is limited,” Barrios-Testa said.
The City of Carlsbad explored options nearly seven years ago regarding the future of senior citizens services.
Barrios-Testa said improving the San Jose Senior Center or looking for a new location were discussed by City staff and administrators.
“Several sites were considered but the project did not move forward with any of those options,” she said.
Barrios-Testa said the Carlsbad Municipal Schools (CMS) stepped forward and donated the former Pate Elementary School building to the City of Carlsbad.
She said the Carlsbad City Council approved the decision to renovate the building for the new senior center in November 2017.
Amparo Vasquez, manager of the San Jose Senior Center, said the move could be positive as the City of Carlsbad could offer additional services for senior citizens.
“It’s been in the works for some time now and we’re finally getting ready to make the move. I think once we’re their things will get back to normal and we’ll be doing what do here,” she said.
Alejandro Ruiz was a Loving native and World War II veteran. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his military service.
He died in 2009 and was enshrined into the Carlsbad Hall of Fame in 2017.
The City has not determined future use of the soon to be vacant San Jose Senior Center.