The site manager of the Storm Lake Senior Citizens Center is asking the Storm Lake City Council to reconsider a decision denying a proposed site for a new Senior Center.
"These senior citizens need more than what they have in this community, and maybe deserve more than a lot of people think," said Donna Garlock.
"These are good people, and they have become like family to me," she said. "I just couldn't let this issue go without a fight."
Long ago, before a key public funding vote, city officials offered the seniors a new center within the $30 million Project AWAYSIS. Project leaders originally proposed a location near the campground, but there was concern that the location might be difficult for some seniors to access.
Recently, AWAYSIS leaders had drawn up a plan to locate a new Senior Citizens Center to the site of the former water plant building, which they planned to remove in Sunset Park. The historical society's log house and one-room school museums were to be located nearby.
The idea met with unexpected controversy. Some residents of the area complained that a senior center would block their views of the lake, and others want to retain the existing water plant structure to be renovated into some sort of park shelter.
As a result, the city council struck down the proposal to locate the senior center in the park, and the search began for some alternative locations for the senior center and historical buildings.
Garlock suggests that the decision might have been a hasty one.
"A key point is that the Senior Center building would have been available for the city to use or rent out however it wants to when it isn't in use for the Dinner Date program. It could be used for many public purposes, and it wouldn't take a very expensive renovation like the water plant would. And as far as blocking the view, it has always been blocked by the water plant, and the senior center is going to be smaller than what is there now."
The local senior citizens volunteer committee has been depending on a new site within the AWAYSIS project. Their current site downtown is crippled by a lack of parking places for the seniors, and the group is quickly running out of money to maintain the older building that it owns, Garlock said.
Following the city council decision, AWAYSIS project manager Mike Wilson had contacted her to see if she had any other ideas for a place where the Senior Center could go, she said. "I don't mean to be stubborn, but the Sunset Park location is definitely the best possible place. The central location, the available parking, the lake view, the access to the park - after expecting this location, I haven't even been able to imagine putting it somewhere else."
Garlock is hoping that if the council more fully considers the options of having such a building within this area of the parks system to use or rent for a wide variety of purposes, it may be willing to revisit the issue. If necessary, a petition could be one idea.
As for the area residents who don't want a senior site spoiling their view, Garlock gently wishes to remind them that one day, they too may be older and in need of such services.
"These are the forefathers of this community we are talking about. People don't think about our seniors in Storm Lake enough, and what they have done for the community. They deserve this."
Garlock said she is also hoping the council will reconsider the plan to remove the "steps" from Sunset Park - site of a well-known recreational beach area with a toboggan water slide far back in Storm Lake history.
"The steps are something of a landmark, and there are a lot of nice memories there. I realize they are in bad condition now," she said, "but I wonder if something couldn't be done to make that spot on the lake useful again. It could be considered."