OAKDALE -- During the multiple public sessions scheduled by the City Council to brainstorm and share ideas about ways to solve the budget crisis, only one directly affected group stepped forward.
The Oakdale Senior Center Foundation, when faced with the city's plan to institute a yearly $25 senior center pass card program, came back with a counterproposal that will be considered in the ongoing budget talks.
Instead of the card program, which the foundation believes will add confusion and administrative costs, the foundation offered to donate $10,000 to the city to help offset senior center overruns in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
"To me, it's such an administrative hassle to keep track of all those cards, and what do you do about guests?" said Frank Clark, a member of the foundation board. "It's an unnecessary encumbrance and does so little.
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"There are about 400 people who use the center on a monthly basis. It's a bad time to take things away from seniors, add more problems, or exclude them financially from maybe the only social activity they have."
Budget meetings throughout the winter and spring have included discussions on most areas expected to be affected by the 15 percent departmental budget cuts requested by the City Council. The budget could come up for a vote as early as the council's meeting Monday.
But May 20, at the last public forum, the seniors were the only group to make a statement -- in presentation and by representation -- which did not surprise Mayor Farrell Jackson.
"The foundation does things like that quite often," Jackson said. "They've gotten the money together other times to furnish the senior center and to help remodel the porch and barbecue area."
The $10,000 offer does, however, come with strings attached.
The city was looking at the $25 fee as a way to keep the center open in light of the cuts coming to the parks and recreation budget. But the senior foundation, in return for the donation, wants the city not only to keep the center open, but to promise that no cuts will be made to programs, hours of operation or the senior lunch program.
"The City Council is going to think about that and get back to us," Clark said.
The City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers, 277 S. Second Ave.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.