Several senior citizens implored West Chester Twp. trustees this week to save their programming at the West Chester Activity Center.
Township Administrator Larry Burks said he met with Community First — the non-profit that leases the center and runs the programs — before the holidays and was told it would not be renewing the lease with the township when it expires in December. The township has not received official documentation confirming that, he said.
Danielle Webb, Vice President of Marketing & Community Relations with Community First, told the Journal-News that plans are still fluid.
“At this time there have been no decisions made regarding discontinuing the West Chester Activity Center program,” she said. “The 10-year contract for the building lease is up December 2019, and we are just beginning discussions with the township as to what will happen with the space moving forward.”
Mary Huizinga told the trustees that while she hasn’t reached senior status, she was saddened because the lunch program and her personal trainer were cut. She said for many seniors, the center provides most of their interactions with others.
“I’ve seen the meals cut and I know there are some people there that that’s their only hot meal,” she said. “It breaks my heart, it really does, I don’t know how people can treat seniors this way.”
The center is one of the largest in Butler County, and Webb did not indicate why Community First might not renew its lease. The 2017 Annual Report for Activity Center that Community First provided the township shows the $198,333 program ran a $26,099 deficit that year.
The township rents the facility to the non-profit for a dollar per year, and Community First pays for maintenance. The report showed maintenance on the facility cost about $4,930 for that year and there were 118 paying for membership.
Trustee Board President Mark Welch said after the meeting this week that the township was contacted by Community First promising something in writing regarding the center, which it had not received as of Thursday afternoon He said the township will have to consider their options for an operating partner if Community First does not renew its lease.
“I think it’s too soon to tell, we are working on options,” Welch said. “Some of those options may include a public private partnership.”
Township spokeswoman Barb Wilson said when Partners in Prime was running the programs — before Community First absorbed that entity — the township was paying about $50,000 toward the senior program. The outside entities were allowed to sublease other areas of the building.
Wilson said the senior transportation program the township runs — seniors can get rides to the center, doctor’s appointments and other locations courtesy of the township — will be unaffected, regardless what happens to the senior center.
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