‘We have no room’: Smiths Falls Seniors’ Activity Centre bursting at the seams

Bud Fawcett and Ron Hughes
Bud Fawcett and Ron Hughes are the president and vice president of the Harmony Seniors Club 162, located in the Seniors Activity Centre at 61 Cornelia St. W., Smiths Falls. They are running out of space to host the number of people who are interested in their daily events. Photo credit: Laurie Weir.
Posted on: May 15, 2024

Group seeking help with storage, safety issues


It’s a good problem to have but when there is no space, and there are safety issues, the Seniors Activity Centre in Smiths Falls is in need of help — and sooner rather than later. 

Bud Fawcett
Bud Fawcett is running out of storage space at the Seniors Activity Centre in Smiths Falls and has asked town council for help. Photo credit: Laurie Weir.

Bud Fawcett has been the president of the seniors’ space since 2006. He’s seen an increase in membership that has them bursting at the seams. They started with 57 members back then, and now they’re closing in on 300. They host nearly that many people a day now as they are well on their way of offering sports and activities for those 55 and over, to more than 15,000 people annually. 

“Safety is the biggest thing,” he said on Tuesday, May 14, during a visit to the activity centre. Fawcett had attended the Monday night meeting of town council seeking some help. “We have no room for anything.”

Fawcett and the vice president Ron Hughes, dodged shuffleboard rocks during a morning session, to show the areas of the building at 61 Cornelia St. W. where they keep their tables and chairs, sporting equipment, decorations, etc. Small nooks and crannies are jammed packed. Behind the cans of paint and equipment are electrical panels, which should not be blocked off, he said. 

The electrical room at the Seniors Activity Centre in Smiths Falls is acting as a storage space for some paint cans – not an ideal place, but they have nowhere else to put them. Photo credit: Laurie Weir.

It’s their wish – plan and hope – that they can get approval to expand the building to the east and take up some of the space that hasn’t been used by the lawn bowling club for the past six years. An old storage shed can also be moved to make room for more parking, as that’s atrocious, they said. 

“It’s a nightmare when there is a hockey game going on and we have activities happening at the same time,” Hughes said. “We’ve asked the hockey team to park down by the Gerry Lowe rink because these seniors end up parking there and many of them can’t walk that far.”

Fawcett pleaded with council on Monday to help them address the issues of safety.

“We’ve got a waiting list like you wouldn’t believe,” he shared with council, for exercise groups like yoga and tai chi. “It’s unreal.”

Prior to COVID, Hughes came on as vice president and they got some younger people to fill the rest of the board. “They have changed this place dramatically, beyond my belief,” he said. 

During COVID they lost 40 dues playing members and Fawcett said, “I thought we hit the ditch.”

To get back on their feet, the have become active on social media – so much so for their pot luck dinners that they can’t share the information anymore. There is no room to expand for more than the 80 diners they have coming out monthly. 

Fawcett said the building is in use seven days a week, with sometimes five events happening throughout the day. 

“We now start at 8 a.m. and there are pickleballers hanging out until 10 o’clock at night,” he said. 

Then it’s a stampede, he said, to get out the door and into the parking lot – where the issue of parking comes into play. “We don’t have the room to accommodate 100 people coming out of that building,” he said. 

“This winter has been chaotic. Two or three times a night my little flip phone was burning right up in my pocket,” he said people having issues with parking during game night for the Smiths Falls Jr. A Bears. 

Inside the building, they had to get rid of their dishes and opt for lighter ones as there was too much weight in the cupboards. They also don’t have a big enough closet for coats. 

“We are asking for some kind of an expansion there that we can have a storage room and we can accommodate more people,” he said. “Everything is just way above expectations. We need more room and we need to clean up our safety act.”

Seniors Activity Centre
The Seniors Activity Centre in Smiths Falls is located at 61 Cornelia St. W. Photo credit: Laurie Weir.

Fawcett said he had a contractor inside to look at the drywall tape that was coming off the ceiling who said it was due to lack of ventilation on the roof. They installed a new air conditioner last year and were using it in January and February, causing condensation in the ceiling. So, climate control is another issue that needs to be addressed, he said. 

“I need your OK to have Chris Saumure to come in and probably fix the ceiling,” he said, “and while he’s there, put up some more noise suppression things.”

He added, “I’m also requesting some storage room and some help with this.”

Fawcett wondered if there are grants available for renovations or modifications, and he’d also like information on what it costs the town to have this building open year-round. 

“We’ve got to maintain it and probably add to it,” Fawcett said of the building, that was spoken about in 1975 and didn’t get built until 2006. 

“I hope by the year 3000 we can have an addition on that building.”

Coun. Jennifer Miller said she’d like to see staff investigate the issues and how best to address them. 

Mayor Shawn Pankow said they need a deeper understanding of an emergency plan and the crisis that the activity building is facing currently, and take a look at where the senior centre is going to be in the coming years as the population ages and the community grows. 

The mayor noted that the financials can also be shared. 

Coun. Jay Brennan, who chaired the meeting, said they could get staff to look into provincial or federal grant opportunities as well, to help with funding. He also noted that if storage is an issue, there are some spaces in town that can be utilized for the short term.

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News

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