The Bethel Senior Center is planning on leaving its current building due to high costs.
In the arrangement right now, the city owns the building, but ONC pays for the maintenance, utilities and program costs. Gloria Simeon is Chairperson of the ONC board.
“So right now where we are on, ONC, we cannot afford to operate that facility. Any hope that we had of the city giving the land and the facility is just not there. The building is so old, we’ve put hundreds of thousand of dollars into upgrading it and keeping it going,” said Simeon.
In 2013, senior center operations cost $614,000 to run and they ended up with a shortfall of $65,000. Larger shortfall in the past had been covered by a grant. Substantial local donation have declined due to federal funding shortfalls and economic pressures.
The center provides over 80 meals a day, many of them delivered to homebound clients. Up to 25 or 30 seniors will visit the center during the day. Many ride the senior bus to go to the center and things like medical appointments and the post office.
In the meantime, ONC wants to keep up services. They will be looking at using their multi purpose facility, the old bowling alley. Staff are currently looking into that temporary option.
“If we can do anything for the immediate right now to at least have a place to provide services to the clients of the Chief Eddie Hoffman Senior Center,” said Simeon.
There may be some issues related to the lease with the landowner, the City of Bethel. The facility must be used for community recreation, according to the lease, but it’s been shuttered due to the high cost of operation.
“So they were basically going to give us notice that we had to vacate the premise with our building and all in a given amount of time. Once we let them know that with these changes that are coming up with the senior centers’ operations and finances, [we asked] that the city would in good faith allow us to open that facility. We had to close it down due to finances,” said Simeon.
The city and tribe’s legal department are looking at the option of using the multipurpose center. Simeon hopes to hear by the end of the week what the outlook is. She says she’s looking for input and ideas from community members. In the end, she says it’s about taking care of our elders.
“It’s Chief Eddie Hoffman, that the center is named after. He is the first traditional chief of our region. It’s out of respect to him and all of the other elders, the leaders that we’ve had that we do everything we can to make sure our elders are getting what they need,” said Simeon.
In the long term, ONC wants to develop a low income housing project, a part of which could include a facility that would allow for senior services and community involvement.