The Belpre City Council Finance and Audit Committee approved to finance the city’s portion of funds to build an expansion on the Belpre Senior Center building during a meeting Thursday.

The city will need to finance roughly $90,000 to cover the cost of the nearly $115,000 expansion, according to city auditor Leslie Pittenger.

The committee and city officials had discussed paying for the project without financing.

“There is probably enough money to take it all out of the general fund, but I think financing would be best,” Pittenger said. “Income tax revenue is down from month to month and it makes me nervous to put out $100,000 in one go.”

Financing options for the project were tossed around and Pittenger stated she had looked into traditional financing with the interest rate on a two-year loan at 3.25 percent and a six-year loan at 5 percent.

Pittenger said she preferred to have a shorter loan agreement because she does not want to leave extra headaches for future city officials.

“I don’t want to leave the burden of long financing to someone else because the Ameresco debt is a big burden on me,” she said.

The group chose to go with the two-year financing because of the lower interest rate and the short term offered.

“I think we should go with a two-year loan, which will end with the current council’s term,” said committee chairman Susan Abdella.

Mayor Mike Lorentz said he has been talking to council about the proposed expansion for more than a year and would like to have it done for the seniors and the citizens.

“I defend the fact that it is a viable and needed project,” he said.

The center has grown in user-ship since the city joined forces with the O’Neill Center in Marietta in the fall of 2008, according to Lorentz and Belpre Senior Center manager Susie Casto.

In October 2008 the center saw an average of 300 people a month and in October 2009 about 1,000 people attended a luncheon or activity at the center.

The rise in the number of people using the center shows Lorentz and the city there is a need for more space.

Casto said the expansion of the senior center building is as much to do with the growth of the program offered as the growth of the number of people partaking of the center.

The plan is to construct a 1,500-square-foot building attached to the senior center into Howes Grove Park to expand the facility by almost double the space.

The other money needed for the project will come from $20,525 given to the city from the Washington County senior levy last fall.

City treasurer Bill McAfee, former mayor, said the city began receiving money from this fund in 2008.

“It has to be spent within the year you receive it and if it is not spent on the addition, it must be spent in the building,” he said. McAfee said the 2008 funds went to put cabinets in the senior center.

City attorney Tom Webster is expected to have legislation for the financing available for the next council meeting Monday.

**This article is from the June 11, 2010 Parkersburg News and Sentinel and reported by Jolene Craig.