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Senior Activity Center deserves a second look

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This is in response to a Dispatch article October 10, about 2013 county levy amounts and budget item discussions. I’m particularly interested in the funding request staff didn’t recommend including, which was the $20,000 request from the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center in Brainerd.

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I’m a member of the center and many of us there had meetings with our commissioners earlier this year to introduce them to the center and the activities and programs offered there. We were then invited to make a presentation to the full board of commissioners which we did on June 12.

The commissioners appeared to be interested in our programs and activities, were aware of senior demographics and that currently one-third of the county’s population is over age 55 and that figure is projected to double or triple in the next 10 years.

The article went on to say that the item wasn’t included in proposed budget because it was something the county hadn’t previously funded, and they needed to keep in mind that there are other senior centers in the county. Yes, there are other centers and if you are familiar with the publication Life Unlimited, (a publication of Crow Wing County and RSVP Volunteer Services) you can read about the activities available at these other centers – they have meetings and potlucks three times a year, one plays cards twice a week, and one offers recycling once a month.

In contrast, the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center has 1,587 members and for 2011 (complete year figures) there were 25 different activities, events or programs per week. Individual participants numbered 19,435 for those activities. We offer art classes, computer classes, we have discussion groups, a writer’s group, a woodworker group, woodcarver group, a book club, exercise classes with a workout room, tennis club, golf club, the list goes on. Access to these programs and activities is not limited to our membership. Non-members can and do participate. Membership is encouraged, not required. All seniors are welcome at the center.

It was reported we have cash reserves and that our expenses are less than our income by $18,900. We are blessed with tireless volunteers who account for 64 percent of our budget. We are also blessed by the foresight of city government and the voters who approved a half mil levy for various non-profits in the city years go. That funding is vital to our continued success. As everyone knows, property values are dropping so taxes are dropping, so dollars generated by the half-mill are also dropping – over the last three years that amounts to $20,000.

Yes, we have cash reserves. We’ve worked hard to build up those reserves. We have an old building. In 2010 we had a local reputable firm look over our building and give us recommendations and estimates. For upgrades to building’s mechanicals – boilers, air conditioning, electrical, etc., we are looking at over $700,000. Of course that is not all required at once, but the estimated life of our boiler, for instance is 10 to 15 years.

I think it’s a shame that we are dropped off the list because we have “cash reserves” and aren’t the only game in the county. I would hope The Center is deserving of a second look.

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