Oregon will schedule public meetings this summer to gage public input on the functions and location of a senior center.
Council President Dennis Walendzak said the city will schedule public meetings once the city has substantive proposals to discuss. Walendzak spoke in response to a letter submitted by residents who raised concerns about whether city officials were adequately addressing the needs of seniors.
“I just wanted to assure those citizens that when the time comes, we’ll be hosting meetings to get public feedback and public comments in regards to the levy funds and the senior center,” said Walendzak. “We’re just not to that point yet. We’re trying to do our due diligence so we understand what some of those needs may be prior to having everybody come in and giving us all their thoughts and trying to get an understanding. [Councilman Terry] Reeves has been involved in that. [Administrator] Beazley also. So just to those citizens who sent that letter, I just want you to know that we will be addressing your concerns and your needs here in the near future.”
In the letter, residents noted that there has been considerable discussion about a new senior center since about 2000.
“There have been surveys, preliminary designs, committees and meetings for a senior center, but nothing has happened,” states the letter. “Oregon has a small inadequate senior center compared to other communities of similar size. Sylvania has the nicest multi-use senior center that is 22,000 square feet with quilting, woodworking, computer room, exercise and dance room, and more.”
The letter also states that the city was committed to building a senior center on a portion of property the city purchased years ago that is adjacent to the municipal complex property, but “that has not happened.”
“Instead Oregon invested in a seasonally used large soccer complex with a new concession stand and restrooms at a cost of over $1 million. There has been nothing spent for a year round senior center that would offer services to over half of Oregon’s population,” states the letter.
Oregon has had large projects that have yielded additional income tax revenue that can pay for a senior center, states the letter. “Furthermore, Oregon retired debt on the municipal complex some years ago that freed up a capital funding resource for a senior center.”
Last November, Oregon passed a levy for senior services “with promises made for an open discussion about a senior center and senior services,” states the letter. “There was one council committee meeting for those offering senior services. That meeting was followed by recent private meetings to discuss senior services as well as who would provide the services.”
The letter requests an open well publicized meeting where Oregon citizens can offer suggestions on a senior center location and suggested functions.
“After the meeting, we ask that there be a cost/location/administration comparison on suggested locations, functions, etc. The second meeting should be no more than 60 days from the first meeting,” states the letter.
Beazley told The Press last week that he is currently meeting with various community partners “to make sure we have a strong understanding of what resources are available.”
“We’ll have a public meeting that presents real information about what resources are available, what services are most in demand,” he said.
There have been no discussions about whether there is the need to build a new senior center, which he called a separate issue.
“The focus of our meetings right now is on senior services that are needed – anything from socialization, respite care for families and exercise classes,” he said.
“The mayor, council and administration are all committed to moving forward thoughtfully with an investment in infrastructure and additional services. We just want to make sure we get it right. We don’t want to spend the community’s resources duplicating services that are already available, building space that is already available in some other settings,” said Beazley.
Years ago, a “strong consideration” had been given to building a senior center on property adjacent to the municipal complex, but estimated costs for construction and maintenance were thought to be too expensive, he added.