Oregon City Council members contacted by The Press said they did not know officials from the James “Wes” Hancock Senior Center had rejected the possibility of getting $250,000 from the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, Inc., (AOoA) to expand operations and had opted instead to get the center’s own levy on the ballot.
Council in July had approved the request of Bob Marquette, president of the senior center on Bay Shore Road, to place a 0.5 mill levy on the Nov. 5 ballot after Marquette said there was the need for more funds.
Councilwoman Sandy Bihn said she first heard about the center rejecting the AOoA’s proposal from a reporter at The Press. She said she contacted the AOoA to conduct her own research, and was disappointed by what she had found. She would not have voted in favor of putting the levy on the ballot had she known about the $250,000.
Councilman Dennis Walendzak also said he did not know about the proposal when he voted to put the levy on the ballot.
“That information was not given to us,” he said.
Had he known, he said he would have asked more questions about the levy “to get more answers” before he voted to put it on the ballot.
Councilman Jim Seaman said he was also in the dark.
“We did not know about it,” he said. “I don’t know the details of the offer, but I would have analyzed that and would have taken it into consideration before I voted.”
Councilman Jerry Peach said he was aware that City Administrator Mike Beazley had discussed the matter with Marquette regarding funds the agency had been providing to the center “and that there was some disagreement by the senior center board as to whether that would be a reliable source of income.”
“When representatives from the senior center came before council, they wanted a levy to provide a reliable source of income,” Peach said.
Still, Peach said he would have been “less inclined” to vote to place the levy on the ballot had he known about the $250,000 proposal.
“It appears that there were some misrepresentations made by representatives from the senior center in regards to funds the AOoA was providing. I do not know if they were intentional or unintentional in the misrepresentations,” said Peach.
Bihn wants a financial and performance audit performed on the center to make it more accountable to the public.
Peach was unsure it was needed.
“But there will be an insistence on accountability from the senior center. A contract will require transparency on all financial matters,” said Peach.
“I definitely think we need to look at their current budget,” said Walendzak, “to see how they spent their money to be sure any future spending is appropriate to meet the needs of our senior community.”
Some would like to see new leadership at the senior center.
“I think we have to look at all the options, ask questions and demand answers,” said Walendzak. “As we move forward and evaluate their proposed budget, we will have to evaluate the need for a professional person to run the center.”
“It might be good to have a professionally trained person as the director,” he said. “I think council agrees there needs to be accountability,” he said.