By CAROLINE MURRAY
NORTHVILLE -- The Sacandaga Task Force for Senior Living is gaining momentum to build a low-income senior housing complex in the heart of the village.
The task force formed eight years ago with a single goal in mind -- to make living in and around the Northville area more accommodating for senior citizens. The group has since established a meal site, and transportation and handyman services, and is slowly working toward its goal of establishing senior housing in Northville.
Task force president Jim Conkling said as of Feb. 27, the organization secured a plot of land on South First Street that's large enough to sustain eight to 12 one-bedroom housing units.
Conkling estimates the complex would cost $1.3 million to build. However, the task force has somewhere between $20,000 to $30,000 in its account -- some of which already goes toward funding the organization's programs.
"When we got started, I was the fifth member. We would have planning meetings and we talked about the type of senior housing that we wanted," Northville resident and task force member Mary Ann Evans said. "Turned out that getting money for a small project for a town like this is almost impossible."
"Impossible" however, is not a word the organization's Conkling uses to describe the senior housing effort.
On Saturday, May 17, the task force is hosting its third annual benefit concert to help raise money for the complex. The Bluz House Rockers will perform at Northville Central School District auditorium at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person.
A pre-concert reception will be held at the Inn at the Bridge at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 each.
All profits will benefit the housing project.
The task force has partnered with other organizations around the area, such as Sacandaga Valley Arts Network and St. Mary's Healthcare in Amsterdam, to put on the affair.
Although enthusiastic about the concert, Conkling said the task force cannot single-handedly afford to build the housing.
Instead, the task force is working with Omni Housing Development on a proposal to present to the state Office of Community Renewal to get a housing grant.
The development agency is currently part of a larger initiative to build roughly 136 low-income senior housing units in areas across the Adirondack Park, including Lake Placid, Canton, Alexandria Bay, and now Northville.
"Together, there is enough units to justify the expenditure, in the eyes of investors and in the eyes of New York state government," Conkling said.
He believes there is a bias against senior housing complexes in the Adirondacks because officials don't see how it will benefit the local economy.
Mayor John Spaeth, a SVAN member, said Northville has a large senior population, and in that regard, he sees how senior housing would benefit the community.
However, he is not certain what financial impact a low-income senior housing complex would have on the village.
He said a10- to 12-unit senior housing complex might move roughly five people out of their homes in Northville and the rest would come from outside the village -- which does not free up a lot of space in Northville's housing market.
Additionally, Spaeth said low-income senior housing does not invite the kind of clientele that spends a lot of money in the community. He is also weary about the effect the housing would have on the village's Medicaid funding.
"Well, certainly, people that aren't able to keep up in their individual homes, it's nice to attract them to the area," Spaeth said. "But I'm struggling with the overall benefit for the village."
Conkling believes otherwise. He pointed to demographics.
A 2012 U.S. Census Bureau survey found that 17 percent of Fulton County's population is people who are at least 65 years old.
However, Conkling said the closest senior housing complex is Gloversville's Petoff Gardens.
The hope is the proposal will entice older residents from different communities to move and invest their money in the village.
"The Adirondacks are dying and what they are growing is old people," Conkling said. "Around Sacandaga Lake, you see for sale sign after for sale sign -- we need to help seniors make those sales and bring younger people in here."
Conkling and Evans said there are a host of social benefits as well.
Conkling said seniors reach a point where they are physically unable to maintain the aesthetics of a home and take care of other ownership responsibilities.
Without a senior living facility in the community, they are forced to move out of the area. Conkling said moving away accelerates a community's deterioration.
"They are a real target for senior housing because they don't want to leave their church or friends," Evans said.