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Senior Center leaders to vote, 'little to lose'

Monday, January 17, 2005

Center would move into Awaysis site

Leaders of the Buena Vista Council on Aging are leaning toward a decision to move the Storm Lake Senior Center from its traditional location downtown to the midst of the Project Awaysis development area of Sunrise Park.

Some of the leaders of the elders group met with Storm Lake city representatives Wednesday. The city if offering to provide a building to be located north of the campground in the area of the current picnic shelter that could serve as the seniors' gathering place during the day and be available for other community uses at night and on weekends, they said.

Donna Garlock, new director for the senior center, said that the issue was discussed Thursday and Friday with the seniors gathering for the Dinner Date meals.

"I think we're going to have to do it. What do we have to lose?" she said of the move.

Members of the Council on Aging will hold their quarterly meeting Wednesday to discuss the potential move and other issues. Garlock said she feels the senior patrons of the center should be given a chance to vote on the move after that.

"It's hard to get an idea of where they stand as a group. Maybe they think it sounds too good to be true.

"They aren't saying much so far. We want to keep talking to them, and let them keep this in their minds and be thinking about it," she said.

Marvin Molitor, the chair of the local Council on Aging, which owns and operates the Senior Center, says he feels satisfied with the offer made by the city and the city's efforts to work with the senior group.

"They really seem to want to build that new center as a part of Awaysis. They showed us an idea for a floor plan this week because they wanted us to see what they are working on and to see if we would have any problems with it. It seems that they want to know if we are in or out with them, and before the bond issue vote comes up."

There are some mixed feelings among the seniors, Molitor feels.

Some prefer to keep the downtown building, because it allows some of the Dinner Daters to walk to the center from their home. Locating it in the park area would mean that all would have to drive or take the bus, Molitor said.

However, the new building in Awaysis could be designed to be very accessible, and city officials have told him that they expect to provide parking area for about 40 cars - many more slots than are normally open downtown, where parking hassles have been a constant issue for seniors.

"It was mentioned to the dinner crowd so they can give it some thought. I don't know about taking a vote of them, but we may at some point ask for a show of hands or something to get an idea," Molitor said.

"In my estimation, if you want to look this thing in the face, the question becomes where will we get the funding to keep the current Senior Center open next year and the year after that? The city is offering a site to us for free, and I think we had better go along with them."

While the council members haven't yet taken a vote, several of the officers seem to agree on the wisdom of making the move to Awaysis, Molitor added.

"What we have now is an old building. We have had to replace the roof and the plumbing, and every time we have to do work, it bites into the savings that we have. And if the city decided not to continue its donations to the budget, we won't have enough money," he said.

"The officers can't really see any other way out. I'm going to talk about it as much as I can. I'm not totally happy about it, but I think right now that moving would be the practical thing."

Molitor said the city plan calls for a building with a dining room to feed 100 people. The current Senior Center serves 96 maximum, and these days, the draw seldom reaches that point. A recent holiday meal attracted one of the bigger crowds seen of late - 61 diners.

Regardless of the decision, not everyone will be happy, Molitor admits.

"Some people will always tend to look at just their own needs, but we need to consider what we should do to keep the Senior Center going. We used to be able to run the Senior Center on a couple of hundred dollars a month - now our utilities are probably in the area of $600 a month, and costs will just keep going up," he said. "The way I look at it, if we stay downtown, we're always going to be wondering how we're going to pay for it."

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