SHELBYVILLE – Representatives for the Shelby County Senior Center on Thursday withdrew a request for a donation from the Shelbyville City Council after the council added conditions for receiving the funding.
Shelbyville traditionally has donated to the senior center to help defray utility expenses. This year, the Shelby County Council on Aging asked for $4,200, the same as last year’s donation.
City Buildings and Grounds Commissioner Gib Smart said the council should refuse, based on the senior center’s refusal to sign a lease for the building and provide a budget. The senior center building is in the city park but was built with federal and state funds given to the Council on Aging.
“I’ve looked at their financials, and their expenses are totally out of whack,” Smart said. “They need to do some stuff with their budget; if they would, they wouldn’t be asking the city for a donation.”
Smart said the senior center generated $100,000 a year in income. Senior center director Mary Beth Massey said Smart’s figure includes more than $20,000 in savings the center has had since it was built more than 10 years ago. She said more than half the center’s funding comes from operating a resale shop and other funds come from providing meals, building rentals, donations and support from the seniors who use the center.
“A lot of senior centers around the state are closing their doors because they rely on federal and state dollars, but we are still open and thriving,” she said.
City council member Brent Fogleman said he understood the senior center would lose donations from townships if they fell under city control with a lease agreement. He said the council should meet with the group before approving the donation.
“We need to meet together and discuss this,” he said. “I don’t want to be heavy handed and I don’t want to come across as heavy handed. I don’t want to start an argument with them.”
Senior center board President Joe Beck said his group had no desire to have a fight with the city and would simply withdraw the request for donations rather than debate control of the building. He said the center had eliminated employee health insurance and cut hours to reduce expenses and would look at other cost-saving measures.
“It’s not worth the animosity this is causing,” he said. “We will do some more fundraising and make up the gap in funding.”
“It’s easier to do more fundraising than have a problem with the city,” she said. “We can always do more fundraisers. The seniors are dedicated to supporting this center.”