The members of the North Branch City Council said they support the county’s senior center at the council’s Nov. 15 workshop, but they could not offer additional monetary aid to the senior center.
County Administrator Bruce Messelt attended the meeting and told the council the county board voted 3-2 during its preliminary budget meeting to cut all funding for the senior center – housed at Uptown Maple Commons in North Branch – next year.
Previously, the county had been providing about $30,000 a year to the senior center, money that was used to pay for coordinators who would organize programs for the seniors in the county.
With that funding, the senior center was able to offer those programs for free.
Difficult to obtain grants
Mayor Amy Oehlers was absent from the meeting, so council member Kathy Blomquist took the role of acting mayor.
She said she was disappointed grants were brought up at a recent county board meeting as an alternative way to fund the senior center.
“I have talked to Dawn Cash (executive director/coordinator of the senior center) about grant opportunities, and she has applied,” Blomquist said. “I will tell you, as the person who was the grant writer at Parmley for seven years, there is no money.”
She added if the senior center at Uptown Maple Commons is forced to shut its doors, the county should look for another way to provide the services so many seniors use.
“If they aren’t able to operate, the county, I believe, has to come up with an alternative to offer all these services in one place,” she said.
No additional city financial support
City Administrator Bridgitte Konrad told the council the city could offer its support to the senior center, but not with extra money, at least not next year.
“We could use the cable channel, the Facebook page – there are things we can do that way,” she said. “I don’t think, within our budget, we have a way to fund the senior center.”
Council member Theresa Furman said she remembered a time when she would receive envelopes in the mail that could be used to write checks to the senior center and other organizations.
She asked Cash if she had thought about that option.
“I looked into that,” Cash said. “If we did that … in order to get the envelopes printed, it was $1,400. That was the cheapest I could find.”
Cash noted during the meeting the senior center had experimented with $1 fees for its programs, and that made attendance drop dramatically.
She said many seniors are on fixed incomes, and they come to the senior center because it is free.
Lindquist also offered an idea about how the senior center could raise funds and stay open next year.
He said the senior center could organize a fundraiser, and he’d be glad to help.
“You could have a dinner and sell a bunch of tickets and have a silent auction or whatever,” he said. “It doesn’t have to come from taxpayer money. It could come from other ways. If it comes from a donation, it’s a better deal, anyway, because everybody gets a good feeling from it.”