Longtime resident implores board to fund senior center

Longtime resident Betty Stoffel stepped up to the podium at the Chisago County Board meeting Sept. 19 and told the commissioners that she thinks funding the senior center is a worthwhile venture for the county. Photo by Derrick Knutson

Betty Stoffel, a North Branch resident who has lived in Chisago County for over 40 years, implored the Chisago County Board of Commissioners to find a way to fund senior center activities at Uptown Maple Commons in North Branch at the board’s Sept. 19 meeting.

At its previous meeting Sept. 5, the board voted 3-2 to cut all of the county’s funding for the senior center next year – about $30,000 – which Dawn Cash, the executive director/coordinator of the Chisago County Senior Center, said would lead to the center closing its doors.

Board Chairman George McMahon and county commissioners Ben Montzka and Rick Greene voted in favor of making the cut at that meeting, while commissioners Lora Walker and Mike Robinson cast opposing votes.

“I personally have used the senior center for 30 years,” Stoffel said. “I developed the We ‘R’ Able community education program for adults with disabilities and we have met there for 30 years.”

She added, “We have touched many, many people with just that one activity,” noting that 40 participants showed up to the last meeting.

Stoffel went on to say that the senior center offers an impressive array of activities for older adults in Chisago County, and it’s utilized by many seniors for socialization, information, referral services and as a way for them to share their skills and experiences.

Stoffel had more to say, but had reached the two-minute time limit allotted to those who address the board during citizen’s forum.

County Commissioner Mike Robinson asked board chairman George McMahon if he could talk about Stoffel’s comments, but McMahon said Robinson’s comments would have to be reserved for the next board meeting.

“Put it on (the agenda), then,” Robinson said.

Chisago County Administrator Bruce Messelt said state statute allows the county to fund the senior center, but does not require the county to do so.

McMahon had said previously that he and the other commissioners who voted to make the cut didn’t want to do so, but “dollars are getting tighter and tighter.”

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