County Comment: Interim Senior Center Lease and Program Costs Discussed

PHOTO CAP: Groves (front) and MacDonald request funding as Commissioner Jim Kercheval listens

County Comment
Interim Senior Center Lease and Program Costs Discussed
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

When there's a community need, like a multipurpose activity and nutrition center for Seniors, and space to meet those needs that is underused during the working day, it would be logical to see a merger of services.
In its regular meeting on February 26th, the Board of County Commissioners heard a plan to facilitate just such a merger from an agency not normally associated with services to elders in the Community, Girls' Inc.
Susan MacDonald, Executive Director of the Washington County Commission on Aging and Maureen Grove, Executive Director of Girls, Inc. brought this proposal for an Interim Senior Center Lease and Program Costs before the Board.
The request was for approval of operating funds for Fiscal Year 2009 in the amount of $328,000, to open a Senior Center at the Girls, Inc. location on Washington Avenue in Hagerstown.
Girls, Inc serves girls ages 5-15 with a variety of educational programs after school and in the evenings, but does not offer programming during normal school days. The Commission on Aging would like to lease space to operate a senior center from 9am to 3pm, Mondays through Fridays in that location. The recently renovated facility includes a gym, auditorium, working kitchen, meeting rooms, office space, adequate parking, and other amenities.
Washington County does not currently have a multi-service senior community center. The long-range goal is to co-locate such centers with new library, youth or school facilities so as to provide cost-effective and comprehensive public services. In the interim, the proposed use of Girls, Inc. space would provide a focal point for wellness programs to maintain lifelong independence for seniors while providing important socialization and civic engagement opportunities.
MacDonald said that annual operating costs of $301,000 plus a one-time expenditure of $27,000 for furniture and equipment were included in the request. The annual leasing cost, including all utilities, would total $180,000, described as below the average market square footage costs in the City of Hagerstown. Staffing costs, projected at $74,000 for twelve months, are consistent with senior center staffing costs in comparable centers in other counties. Food costs of $47,000 annually would include contributions from participants.
The Commissioners discussed cost of square footage, furniture, staffing, transportation and the interim nature of the request, and will receive further consideration prior to the Public Hearing on all County budgets, set for May in Kepler Theater at Hagerstown Community College.