West Chester Twp. officials are searching for ways to keep senior citizen programming alive with the possible closure of the senior center.
Last month a group of seniors implored the township trustees to keep their programming and free lunch at the Activity Center in the old library on Cox Road.
“Just think about these seniors, they are staying active physically and mentally which means they are going to be less dependant and pulling less dollars out of the government spending, because they are going to be out there being happy,” one woman said. “I guess we all have one question, when did spending money on bike paths become more important than supporting our seniors.”
The township owns the building, and Community First leases it for $1 per year and runs the programming. Township Administrator Larry Burks told the group he met with the non-profit before the holidays and was told it would not be renewing the lease with the township when it expires in December.
“We’ve agreed to work together to find a solution to the problem,” he said. “We just don’t know what that solution is at this time. We are trying to come up with a variety of options that may work and then hopefully we can collaborate with the community as whole to determine which option would be best.”
The township subsidized the program — Partners in Prime ran it until 2012, when Community First absorbed that organization — from 2005-15 at a cost of $976,600. Trustee Board President Mark Welch said the township ended the subsidy in 2016.
“The trust level between us and Community First wasn’t good,” Welch said. “Because we didn’t feel like they were using all of the assets that were given to Partners in Prime for Partners in Prime.”
Trustee Lee Wong said paying for a senior center is not one of the township’s core responsibilities and the trustees felt the non-profit didn’t do enough — he said fundraising was promised — to make the senior center self-sustaining.
“At some point we’ve got to wean you off,” Wong said. “We only support you for so long … After so many years it’s time to do something else other than relying on the township. We have been very generous.”
One option the township is exploring is to have Hillandale Family Communities — a senior care company with senior living and health care locations throughout the county — provide programming for seniors who might be displaced at the end of the year.
Welch said the township is meeting with Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon — his family owns Hillandale — this month to discuss providing senior programming at the Chesterwood Village location on Tylersville Road. He said from a business perspective it would make sense for Hillandale to run a senior center in their facility, because it would introduce the senior citizens to a place they might one day want or need to live.
“It would be great if it make sense for the Dixons to add this as part of their offering,” Welch said. “They would be able to justify from a financial standpoint.”
Wong said “there are other interested parties” but Chesterwood seems to be a perfect solution to the present problem.
“That would be a perfect place as part of the assisted living,” Wong said. “They have everything, all the equipment there, all the facilities for it.”
Dixon said they are open to discussing the idea with trustees.
“It is a possibility, everything is on the table,” Dixon said. “We’ll see what their thoughts are and where they’d like to see it go and grow and see if we can help in some way facilitate that.”
Community First did not respond to a request for comment.