West Chester activity center sale: What does it mean for those seniors?

The West Chester Twp. trustees are selling the Activity Center that houses senior programs for about $1.7 million and moving the program elsewhere.

The trustees approved a request for proposals Tuesday night to dispose of the 3.6-acre site on Cox Road. The Butler County auditor’s website lists the value at $2 million but Trustee Board President Mark Welch said officials had an appraisal done last year that placed the price at $1.7 million, so that would be a minimum bid.

“We certainly want somebody who is going to be a benefit to the community,” Welch said. “We’re looking for a developer to build on it and to add some kind of a service to the township and help the road situation when it’s up and running. It’s no secret that I think Kroger has an interest in it.”

The Activity Center sits in back of the Tylersville Road Kroger store. Kroger Corporate Affairs Manager Erin Rolfes declined comment about the location or potential plans.

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Trustee Lee Wong said the township is selling the property now because “there is a market for it” but added he “ cannot confirm or deny” Kroger has an interest.

Trustee Ann Becker said the seniors who use the facility will have another option.

“Our seniors will be well taken care of,” she said. “They will have access to the facility until Dec. 31 and they will continue to receive high quality service they are accustomed to.”

Township Administrator Larry Burks said officials started the sale process now because any potential buyer might require some inspections that could take time to complete.

“Some of the best proposals might be contingent on inspections or other due diligence items,” Burks said. “We also don’t want to have our building sitting around in disrepair because the longer that happens the more and more it will degrade.”

Welch said the air conditioning needs to be replaced, the building is going to need a new roof and other repairs would begin to mount, to the tune of more than $100,000.

The RFP asks potential buyers to provide information about the proposed use of property, estimated property tax revenue, number of employees and the “means, methods and resources the bidder has to realistically implement the proposed project” among other things.

Welch said the township is very close to finalizing a plan for another third party to take over the senior program. Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon, whose family owns Hillandale Family Communities — a senior care company with senior living and health care locations throughout the county — confirmed they are discussing use of their newly expanded Chesterwood Village location on Tylersville Road.

“There’s been some talks about how we can help provide services to seniors,” he said. “I think we’re looking at how we can accommodate them, because in our new building we do have community space. If there is a way we can help, we’d be glad to do it.”

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The issue arose in January when a group of seniors implored the township trustees to keep their programming and free lunch at the Activity Center. They heard Community First was not renewing its lease with the township.

“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 at the time. “I guess we all have one question, when did spending money on bike paths become more important than supporting our seniors?”

Community First leases the facility for $1 per year and runs the programming. The request for proposalsnotes the township will “use all reasonable efforts to expedite termination of the lease” earlier than Dec. 31. Danielle Webb, Vice President of Marketing & Community Relations with Community First, said her organization will continue to provide the programming as long as it is needed for the remainder of the year.

“We will be working to do whatever we can to make sure there is a positive transition,” she said.

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. Welch said the township ended the subsidy in 2016.

Becker said she does not think the new provider will ask the township for financial support.

The Activity Center also serves as rehearsal space for the West Chester Symphony Orchestra. Gary Rossignol asked the trustees not to forget about them.

“We only perform in West Chester, we are your symphony,” he said. “And we have no place to go once the property is sold.”

Becker said she is a former “band kid” and they have included the symphony in the senior programming discussions with the third party.

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