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Senior Recreation Center Update

Village officials release public statement regarding hot button issue

Improvements to the village facilities provided for our senior residents has been a topic of concern at recent  trustee meetings, in letters to the press and in emails. On behalf of the mayor and the entire board of trustees, we note the following points. By this release, the Public Information Committee desires to provide a brief summary of some salient points, and does not intend this release to cover all points of view or all the details related to the issue. First, a brief review of prior actions:

Recognizing the growing number of our senior population, in 2007 a cottage on the St. Paul’s grounds was refurbished to provide extra space for planned activities as well as a lounge for television viewing, socializing and other unscheduled events. We believe that the cottage rooms have been a welcome addition to our senior facilities. Additionally, Cluett Hall and the St. Paul’s Field House are available for exercise classes focused on senior needs.

More recently, the board of trustees sponsored a survey specifically designed to solicit from village seniors their opinions and desires with regard to recreation facilities and programs. A large number of respondents indicated that they are satisfied with the existing facilities and programs offered by the recreation department and the library. (Many also asked that more bus trips be organized by the recreation department.) While it is true that the survey did not specifically ask if there were inherent problems with the senior facilities as they exist, there did not appear to be a broad-based dissatisfaction on that score.

That having been said, we do take note that the Senior Working Committee that was appointed by the trustees has on several occasions requested that the Golf Club Lane Senior Center be substantially improved. In response to this concern, the trustees adopted this project as part of the 2012-16 Capital Budget Plan. Contrary to some of the statements that have recently been made in the press, this project was not put in the 2012-13 operating budget for immediate funding. Like most of our capital projects it was designed to be funded with a bond issue. After some discussion, the trustees decided to wait for the results of the Senior Needs Survey, as well as the recent village-wide Recreation Survey before going forward with the expansion project.

Certainly we understand the frustrations of some seniors who expected the expansion of the Golf Club Lane facility to have at least begun by this time. We are however, proceeding in what we believe to be a reasoned manner to ensure that we are serving the needs of a majority of the seniors at an appropriate cost to the village.

Additionally, while we were waiting for the results of the surveys, it was suggested that we investigate the suitability of the Garden City Casino for some senior activities as well as other uses by the recreation department. The land and building at the casino site are owned by the village, which has licensed its use to the Casino Corporation. No rent is paid to the village and the Casino Corporation is responsible for operating expenses, maintenance and repairs to the property.  In early July, trustees and village officials toured the facility and most believed there was some potential for a cooperative use of the building by the village and the Casino Corporation. On Friday July 26, six trustees and representatives from the senior community visited the casino with several casino directors. Following this visit, it did not appear that there was a clear agreement among the seniors in attendance that the casino property suited their need. Also, no agreement has been  concluded at this  time with the casino representatives regarding a joint utilization program.  Mayor Watras has appointed a committee of three trustees to gather the relevant information about the casino’s operations and make an evaluation about the feasibility of a partnership. If such an arrangement can be made, the village would most likely take on the obligation of some operating/maintenance expenses, and possible improvements including refurbishing currently unusable areas including a craft room and  bowling alleys in the basement.

We are awaiting answers from the casino board to a number of relevant questions about their operations and arrangements with outside organizations. We are also waiting for the recreation department  to provide us with  the actual number of senior men and women who regularly use both the Golf Club Lane facility and the St. Paul’s cottage facilities for activities such as card games, meetings and exercise classes.  It is our current intention to maintain and improve these sites whether or not we proceed with new uses of the casino. What remains to be decided is the mix of facilities and programs that most effectively serves our current and future needs..

Finally all the trustees hope that the public will realize that we are trying to decide on a course of action that is not only best for our senior men and women, but also is the most prudent use of village facilities and tax dollars. The mayor and the BOT will make a decision soon that is in the best interest of all the seniors. Thank you for your patience.