Expanding the senior center is a want and a need
It’s budget time again, that strange time of year when need and want are locked in mortal combat for available funding. Need seems to always win in the end, with want occasionally getting a mention somewhere after the fact.
Prioritizing need gets to be a little tricky from time to time, as someone always has a different idea as to what is most important. What really causes havoc is when needs and wants are the same. Such is the case at the senior center.
We need to expand the senior center. We desperately need to increase its size just to accommodate the population that is currently being served there, not to mention the almost daily increasing use. We need to expand the kitchen facilities to continue feeding those who currently depend on it for, in some cases, their only hot meal of the day. The eating and general use area will not seat everyone on many occasions. The cold, hard fact is we have grown out of the center in almost every aspect of its use.
Expanding the center without increasing the parking area is just not feasible. We have people parking, or at least trying to park, along the street for as many as three blocks away. This will not sound so important to those of us who don’t have to use canes, crutches or walkers in bad weather, but is critical for those who do, not to mention the impact on those who live along the street and who must compete for parking.
That said, the quick, easy and possibly the only immediate answer is an expansion. Add on to the existing facility until more permanent accommodations can be arranged. This does not solve the situation and does not address the parking problem. This will also be but a little more than a Band-Aid approach to the overall problem.
That pretty much addresses the need part. Now let’s take a look at the want portion of this issue.
Lots of people have talked about a community center, more of a multi-generational facility that would provide for many other segments of our county population. Something of a versatile nature that could start as a senior center but with expansion capabilities to incorporate some of the ideas identified in public meetings. Something that would address the needs of our youth, some of the not-so-young, and those like me who sort of remember what it was like to be young. Something with meeting rooms for service organizations, not to compete with the private sector, but as an enhancement to their facilities. Some place for the performing arts. The list can only be shortened by the cost of such a facility.
Oh yes, the cost! That little item that brings us back to earth, that little item that squelches so many great ideas. How do we pay for the expansion, that Band-Aid, temporary answer to a problem that will only grow? How do we incorporate a multi-generational facility into a reasonable vision that we can pay for? How do we find funding for any of this? Some of the suggestions have been an increase in property taxes or sales tax (not my favorite choices), a utility tax, property transfer taxes or other forms of use tax.
Whatever the choice, it will require bonding for construction and continuing operations. Room tax that now helps pay for the existing operations will not fund any increased operations.
None of the choices will be easy, but they will have to be made. The biggest and most important requirement for this issue is public support. This is an incredibly important issue for our residents as a whole and one that needs to be addressed soon.
n Kelly Kite represents Douglas County Commission District 5