Cash-strapped

Osceola Senior Center in need of money, council debates pulling funding from animal shelter

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 11:58 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 12:05 p.m. CDT

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Osceola Senior Center is in need of funding.

“We’re kind of getting to the bottom of our barrel,” said Jim Horton with Osceola Senior Center during a Feb. 19 Osceola City Council meeting. “We’re not broke, but we’re needing some financial help.”

Horton added, he appreciates everything the city has done for Osceola Senior Center in the past.

Councilman Glenn Schaff said he was in favor of taking $1,000 a month away from Clarke County Animal Shelter’s funding and putting it toward the senior center.

“We never get a report from that shelter, how they are, and I feel that I would just about as soon feed the humans as animals, and I love animals,” Schaff said. “I want to see that senior center stay.”

The city currently budgets $2,000 a month to the animal shelter.

It was also mentioned the city waive the senior center’s water and sewer charges. The water charge would have to be discussed by Osceola Water Board.

Horton said water and sewer cost between $900 and $1,000 per year. The center also has to pay $500 a month for rent.

Mayor Fred Diehl asked if it would help the funding situation to waive the water and sewer fees.

“That would help,” Horton said. “Any little bit helps.”

Eleanor Gage, president of Osceola Senior Center board, said some people think when they go to eat at the senior center and pay $3 for the meal, it goes right back to the senior center.

That isn’t the case. The meal money goes out of the county to Area XIV Agency on Aging.

Schaff made a motion for the city to drop the senior center’s sewer rates, as well as the water bill, and give $1,000 a month to the senior center from the animal shelter’s monthly funding.

Councilman Dr. George Fotiadis said he was concerned about the motion since the animal shelter isn’t an agenda item, and there would be a problem tying the two agencies together.

“But, I do agree,” Fotiadis said. “I would like to give something for the senior center. It’s something we’ve done and it’s a service that they provide. It’s good for the community.”

The city currently budgets the senior center a yearly donation of $3,000.

Councilwoman Sarah Truitt spoke in defense of the animal shelter.

“I just have to say our animal shelter has a hard time keeping its doors open … I know that’s a community service also and I know they get donations and things, but I think they’re also an important part of our community,” she said. “I would love to give money to both places as much as we could, but I don’t want to take away from them. I’m afraid they would not be able to keep their doors open.”

Councilman David Walkup said officials from the animal shelter should also be given the chance to be able to come to a council meeting and represent themselves.

“I know for a fact, that a lot of people, that’s the only hot meal they get in a day,” Schaff said. “And, I’ve been around. I’ve traveled this town for 12 years talking to different people and a lot of them go without at least one pill a day or a meal a day so they can pay their taxes … to live in their own home. I just feel we need to keep it open.”

The council agreed there’s no question about needing to keep the senior center open.

The question is, how does the city fund it?

Osceola City Administrator/Clerk Ty Wheeler cautioned the council there’s not additional $1,000 in funding to “pull and plug in somewhere.” Additional revenue would have to be raised.

The senior center relies on grants and donations. Schaff said, in the past, several people have died and left considerable amounts of money to the senior center.

However, some of the funding is stipulated for different things like building maintenance or general operations.

Council members asked Horton to provide an expense and income financial report to study exactly how much is needed at the senior center.

The council approved proceeding with the $3,000 yearly donation to the senior center and waiving the sewer charges, as well as requesting the water board to consider waiving the water fees. The city will continue to look at more fees and income necessary to keep the senior center open.

“We’ll look at what kind of support would be realistic and appropriate to keep that agency going,” Fotiadis said.

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