West Chester seniors angry, want township action on new gathering place

A group of angry West Chester Twp. seniors demanded the trustees take action after plans to find them a new place to congregate stalled during the coronavirus pandemic.

They were out in force Tuesday telling the trustees they have waited long enough for a new space to meet. The topic of creating community space first arose in 2019 after the seniors were displaced from the Activity Center on Cox Road. Community First, which ran senior programming at the center, decided not to renew its lease, and the township decided to sell the property.

The trustees had a $1.8 million purchase agreement with Regency Centers so a giant Kroger Marketplace could be built, but the deal fell through last summer. Officials from Kroger and Regency have not responded to requests for comment on the progress of the deal that was potentially going to be resurrected.

Nancy and Jack Williams have been the spokespeople for the group of seniors.

“We want a permanent home, we need one, ever since we left the Activity Center we’ve been here we’ve been there, we get kicked out of here, we get kicked out if there,” she said. “We need financial support as well. Jack and I are licensed consultants and we have some proposals and we have a potential buyer for the Activity Center.”

She said they would like to bring it back a community center — not just a senior center — that could serve the seniors for their programming but also other groups and be rented out so it could be a profit center. But she said it will take the township’s support.

Williams could not be reached for comment on the potential buyer for the Activity Center.

Anne Holbrook said the seniors needed the Activity Center just so they could be with other people. She accused the trustees of not caring.

“The cutest thing is what one person said to me and I think you need to think about this, West Chester is the 35th best city — even though it’s not a city — to live in the United States, except if you’re over 55,” she said to a round of applause from the audience.

Trustee Mark Welch said the physical place is one thing but they also need someone to run the programming, like another non-profit.

“It is kind of big thing, we know you guys aren’t happy at this point but it’s still being looked into,” Welch said. “The last year-and-a-half everything was kind of put on hold and basically people weren’t going to the library, you wouldn’t have gotten together if there had been a community center for you anyway, because it would have been closed down. So we’ll just pick up where we left off.”

The township is already in discussion with the MidPointe Library about expanding that facility to create a community space. The Muhlhauser Barn will also be reconsidered but there isn’t any heat or air conditioning and there were other issues to address.

Trustee Ann Becker told the Journal-News she has seen preliminary plans for the library addition but cost estimates are premature. She too said running programming for the seniors like meals, exercise classes and the like are not the township’s purview, but they will figure something out.

“I think a temporary solution until we have a more permanent solution of using the library as a more expanded space, that’s something we might need to consider,” Becker said. “We did, we let you guys down and that’s frustrating.”

Trustee Lee Wong said they will consider possibilities but also reminded the group the subject of a community center has been voted down previously.

“I remember almost two decades ago there was a referendum to see if we want a community center and it was voted down,” Wong said. “Because of operational costs, whose going to run it, this and that, voters voted down a facility like that for community gatherings, senior center.”

Welch and Wong are up for re-election this year and Holbrook said she has a candidate ready to oppose them.

“Change is going to happen,” Holbrook said. “Whether you change what you’re doing or they’re (the seniors) going to change who they have representing them. That’s just where they are right now, they feel cheated, they feel like you don’t listen to them.”

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