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Pulling Senior Center funds would hurt community

Marvin Weitzenhoffer

Are you aware the South Lake Tahoe City Council has a proposal under consideration that will effectively close the Senior Center? On a daily basis an average of 525 people go through the doors of this facility, not counting events that take place on Saturday and Sundays. Simple arithmetic will show that we service 131,250 live bodies per year.

The current suggestion is to discontinue the funding of this facility. In the upcoming budget it was anticipated that we would need $138,000, less $30,000 from rental income — a net of $108,000. This cost to the city is 82 cents per body per year. The proposal being considered would result in $50,000 being removed from the budget this March and an additional $50,000 to be removed in October. The city would continue to pay for utilities and custodial services, nothing more.

Officially it is called the Senior Center, but in reality this building functions as a Community Center. It is available from 7:30 a.m. until 11 p.m., seven days per week. There are approximately 60 different groups taking advantage of these services. At least half of them serve the general community, not just seniors.

Here are some of the services the Senior Center provides:

n Recreation services include bingo, art classes, trips out of the area, dance and exercise classes and numerous bridge programs.

n Social services include various counseling functions, support groups, tax preparation assistance, medical assistance in the form of examinations and inoculations, and a very successful nutrition program.

n The Tran-Sen program is just getting off the ground. In November and December, operating only three days per week we have made 270 pick-up and delivery trips.

n Meeting rooms for outside professional groups and organizations including Community College classes, government agencies, private businesses, the City of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County

n Special events, both private and public, including weddings and birthday parties.

The final two bulleted items bring in $30,000 per year for the city.

The city is now is paying for the part-time salary of the director and the part-time salary of the custodian, utilities, supplies and a few miscellaneous other items. The kitchen help and the nutrition supervisor, Meals on Wheels coordinator, are paid by the county. This latter program would not be discontinued. The receptionist and transportation coordinator are federally funded under the Green Thumb program. All other workers at the site are volunteers. There are many more volunteers behind the scenes who assist the Senior Center director in managing this site. The City Council has suggested that we get additional volunteers to carry the load to replace the professionals who are now running the show. A volunteer core is needed and is currently in place, but they are all “volunteered out.” You cannot and will not get blood from a stone.

The beautiful building was created as the result of a public/private venture between the El Dorado County, the city of South Lake Tahoe and the South Lake Tahoe Senior, Inc., parent to the South Lake Tahoe Senior Building Fund. The latter being a nonprofit corporation formed to raise money for the building. Since the inception of this project the nonprofit has raised and contributed in excess of $325,000 to this effort. The city has not had to pay for any furnishings or expansion of the building. At this time an additional expansion is in the works, but is at jeopardy if the proposed funding reduction is implemented.

Billie Bridges and I have been working on the Tran-Sen project for three years. The intent is to get federal funding to purchase two vans for the Senior Center. The Federal Transit Agency advised us two weeks ago that we could expect to get approval for the funding within the next six to eight months. This project is in jeopardy if this budget reduction takes place. The organization as described in the 5310 Grant Request must be in place at the time of the award, otherwise the request will be denied and the award will not take place.

We recognize that the City Council has a serious budget problem. But we feel that the Senior/Community Center is a priority that should and must be funded. We sincerely believe that 82 cents per body per year is money worth spending in order to serve approximately 10,000 citizens of this community. Please write and/or call all the members of the City Council and implore them not to cut the Senior Center budget.

— Marvin Weitzenhoffer is the city’s appointee on the El Dorado County Commission on Aging.


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