The ashes are cold from the fire that destroyed the Senior Friendship Center 14 months ago.
But fires are still smoldering as the senior citizens in Orem fight to make sure their independence and control of the building doesn't become a casualty of the calamity that robbed them of a place to meet.The new $2.2 million Senior Friendship Center at 93 N. 400 West will be more spacious and offer more than the center that burned last June - partially because the city of Orem has contributed funds above what the insurance company paid.
With 32,000 square feet of space, the center features an expansive multipurpose room with a stage and dressing room on the main floor, surrounded by classrooms, offices and kitchen facilities.
In the basement is a full indoor jogging track, a carpenter's workshop, a ceramics center with a kiln, storage areas, a billiards room, a quilting area and an exercise room.
The building is expected to be completed by the end of 1994, perhaps even by Thanksgiving, said acting city manager, Jim Reams.
"It's on schedule," said Reams. "We're hoping it can be done earlier than December."
Before then, the city and the senior citizens, represented by Ernie Summers, must come to an agreement on how the building will be run and perhaps shared.
Summers feels that since the Senior Citizen Corporation built the original building with donated materials and labor in 1974, the new building should still be exclusively theirs.
City officials feel that the building, enhanced with funds from Orem's share of community development block grant money, should be available to more segments of the community.
Summers said the senior citizens have lots of plans for the new building that will involve most of the facility five days a week - including lunch served every day, dances, 60 different classes in everything from banjo playing to silversmithing, quilting bees, and health fairs.
"We'd be doing a lot more," said one elderly woman, playing cards at the lunch table in the Orem Community Church on 100 N. 400 East. "There just isn't enough room here."
Tempers flared between the senior citizens and city fathers when an attempt was made to include the salary for a manager in the 1994-95 budget.
Summers said the senior citizens feel pushed out of something they created on their own.
As one of only four paid members of the senior citizen organization, Summers feels he has effectively managed the program and could continue to do so for far less than a new manager would expect.
Orem's City Council handed the problem to an ad hoc committee to solve, but according to Summers, he is not included as a member, nor are any of the citizens he suggested.
Mayor Stella Welsh is on the committee at her request, along with Councilman Timothy Christensen.