Crowd Gathers for Senior Center Groundbreaking

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After stepping down from the Hermiston City Council in 2014, Frank Harkenrider has stayed pretty much out of the public eye. But on Wednesday, the 90-year-old former Hermiston mayor and longtime city councilor was center stage for a ceremony marking the ground-breaking of the new senior center that will bear his name.

And as always, Harkenrider spoke up when he had something to say to the current mayor.

“The reason we chose to name it the Harkenrider Center is that Frank has served the city for 50 years,” said Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann.

“Sixty-four years!” piped up Harkenrider.

The man and those years of service were honored during Wednesday’s ground-breaking ceremony.

“That’s a huge commitment – 64 years of public service,” said Drotzmann.

Harkenrider has long been a proponent of the city’s senior population. He has been lobbying for a newer, bigger and better senior center for years.

“He has been involved in this long before he was even a senior citizen,” said his wife, Bev.

The new center, to be built behind the United Methodist Church, will be 50,000 square feet with two stories. A total of $3 million has been raised for the center – $2 million coming in the form of a Community Block Grant. Under the terms of the grant, the center can only be used for activities for people over 50 during its first five years, after which the center would be available for senior center programs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The center would be available for community uses during all other times.

Hermiston City Manager Byron Smith said construction will begin next week and is expected to be completed within 10-12 months. The basement will remain unfinished due to a lack of funds, but Smith said money will be set aside on a regular basis to finish it over time.

During his remarks on Wednesday, Drotzmann thanked the tireless work of the Hermiston Senior Center leadership committee.

“Without the senior center leadership, we wouldn’t be here,” he said. “It’s through their insistence that we’re here today.”

And what does the Harkenrider think of the future senior center?

“It’s a dandy,” he said. “It’s going to be great!”