LUCERNE – The county is working with the Lucerne Senior Center to purchase part of the center's property, an effort the county's top official said is meant to help the center financially.
Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Cox shared the plan with Lucerne residents at a town hall meeting hosted at the center by Supervisors Denise Rushing on Saturday.
For the past few years the center has struggled with a number of financial issues. Last April, the center asked the Board of Supervisors for a $150,000 loan to help it stabilize its precarious financial situation and allow it to continue serving the community's seniors.
That request didn't go through. Senior center executive board president Jim Swatts explained in a weekend interview that he withdrew the loan request because he feared it would open a “can of worms” for the county, in that other groups might bombard the board with similar fund requests.
“I didn't turn it down because I didn't want it, I turned it down because I didn't want to put the county in that kind of predicament,” Swatts said.
Cox explained in an interview following the town hall meeting that the supervisors put $150,000 in the 2006-07 budget to help the center by taking another approach – buying the center's thrift shop on Country Club and 9th, located next to the main building.
Cox said the county and the center began speaking about the purchase last month, and that the process is now starting.
The plan, said Cox, is to buy the lot containing the thrift shop building and the parking lot behind it. The county would then lease the building and lot back to the center for $1 a year, he said, with the stipulation that the center must make a room available for community meetings.
Swatts said the lease agreement calls for the senior center to rent the thrift shop building for 10 years, with an option for the center to buy the building back at that time for $150,000 or to continue to lease the building for another 10-year period.
Cox said the process to purchase the building will include several steps, such as an appraisal and a public hearing. He expects it to take three months.
“It's going to help eliminate the debt the senior center has,” said Cox, and will allow the county to manage the building in a way that still makes it available to the center.
The $150,000 purchase price, said Cox, will allow the center to catch up on its bills.
The center's current debt load is more than $100,000, Swatts said, but much less than when it went to the board last April.
Once the center has paid off its bills, it needs to pursue some building improvement projects, Swatts said.
Those projects include repairing the building's roof, he said, which has suffered repeated leaks.
There also are plans to remodel the center's kitchen, Swatts said, and enlarge it by converting some office space into additional kitchen area.
“It's a win-win for everybody,” Cox said.
“That's exactly what it is,” Swatts agreed.
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