What is the future of the Senior Center? 2018 09 25

Marshalltown city councilors, staff and residents discussed numerous options for the Senior Citizen Center at Monday night’s meeting.
After 70 minutes of debate, the council voted 7-0 to place a resolution on the Oct. 8 meeting agenda to demolish the 98-year-old structure. They followed a recommendation made in a memo sent to councilors and available to the public authored by City Administrator Jessica Kinser.
“I am recommending we move forward with demolition for multiple reasons,” she wrote. “The $1.2 million (in replacement insurance for damages suffered from the July 19 tornado) is to put the building back into the condition it was prior to the tornado, which we know was a building that was costing the General Fund $30,000 annually beyond the rents received. The second reason is that $1.2 million will not address the code updates that would need to occur to the building in a renovation. Finally, the council had approved leases with the two renting senior service agencies through Dec. 31, 2019 with a plan to moth ball the building at that point.”
Kinser said the city has been contacted by numerous developers concerning the site in the 100 block of East State Street because it is ideal for public housing or other uses.
First ward councilor Sue Cahill made the motion to demolish, but emphasized wording be in her motion a location in an existing city building (possible Veterans Memorial Coliseum) be made available for seniors.
The vote came despite strenuous objection by residents Linda Clark and Barbara Ohrt. Clark urged the council to make the needed improvements to bring it up to code.
“You already own the building at a site that has parking,” she said. “I disagree with the demolition option. It is a place where seniors can go to play bingo, shuffleboard and have a good meal.”
Ohrt, who said she was in her 80s, said she was a frequent visitor to the facility over the past years and had made many friends over the years. Several shuffleboard players from Marshalltown and Le Grand told the council the center’s shuffleboard courts are the best in the state and draw players from the Des Moines area.
At-large councilor Leon Lamer said the city spends a good deal of public money on youth and adult recreational activities and should do the same for the community’s sizable senior population.
Monday night’s debate was a continuation of other discussions held at regular or special city council meetings earlier this year. The damage caused to the two-story brick building from the July 19 tornado and its subsequent closing since, renewed debate. At issue is the money the city is losing on renting the facility. For the fiscal year which ended July 1, 2018, the city spent nearly $30,000 above and beyond the contracted rents from two tenants – the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging and the Marshall County Senior Citizens Center. Both entities pay $400 in monthly rent.
The city has been losing $20,000 or more annually going back to fiscal year 2014. Utility expenses in the 98-year-old building make up most of the deficit, Kinser said.
“Related to the high expenditures to keep the facility open is the overall condition of the building,” Kinser said. “The city has not invested the resources to keep the building in a good operating condition.”
Kinser said the city has deferred all capital and long-term maintenance projects to fiscal year 2022 in the Capital Improvement Plan with the intent that the future of the senior citizens building would be discussed as part of the Coliseum project. This includes some costly elevator upgrades which must occur in 2020.
Kinser told the council that since the tornado, the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging has seriously looked at other locations around the community, including the second floor of “old” city hall.
It was unclear at time of press how volunteer representatives of the MCSCC feel about a proposed demolition with possible relocation to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum since no board members were present at the meeting.
——Contact Mike Donahey at
641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com

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