Senior Center needs funding to continue

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By Ben Hyatt

Harrison County’s Senior Citizens Center director is unsure what the new year will hold for services currently offered for the elderly.
The Harrison County Senior Citizens Center has long served the disabled and elderly of Harrison County, however, lack of funds has recently threatened the future of the service.
“I don’t know what 2013 will be like for us,” said director Tracy Whitaker. “It looks worse all the time, but we are staying optimistic.”
The Senior Citizen Center currently provides services to the community through hot meals programs, assisted in-home help as well as other programs at the center.
“We are delivering about 300 meals a week right now,” said Whitaker. “Sometimes these are the only hot meals that they have.”
Whitaker said the center also provides adult day-care for those unable to live at home without supervision by family members.
“The need is here and we try and meet them as best as possible,” said Whitaker. “We have cut spending everywhere we know possible and are working with a smaller staff than ever before.”
According to Harrison County Judge-Executive Alex Barnett, the Senior Citizen building, located on Old Lair Road, was built in 1996 on a $499,000 loan.
“The city and county built the building with an agreement that the occupants would pay back the loan instead of rent to the city and county,” said Barnett.
According to Barnett, the original loan of $499,000 had an interest rate of 6 percent, resulting in less than half of the principle being paid off since the loan was taken out.
“There have been numerous factors in the loan not being paid back by now,” said Barnett. “Former management problems and cuts from state and federal funding and high interest rates have been the main factors.”
Aside from budget cuts from the state and federal governments, repairs have also begun to pile-up causing the occupants of the building to direct their funds into maintenance.
According to Barnett, the building is currently occupied by the Senior Citizens Center, Community Employment Opportunities and Community Action.
“In the agreement, the three occupants were also responsible for any maintenance to the building,” said Barnett. “Recently the building has needed work on the roof, sprinkler system and other projects,” explained Barnett. “It is hard for them to pay for repairs as well as for the loan.”
Barnett said the city and county have recently refinanced the original loan in order to receive a lower interest rate in an effort to make payments lower.
“We refinanced for $350,000, which was the remainder of the loan at 3.75 percent,” said Barnett. “Hopefully this will give them some breathing room.”
Barnett said that the fiscal court has strongly agreed to continue helping the Senior Citizens Center in order to keep the doors opened for the elderly and disabled.
“We will all be seniors one day,” said Barnett. “It is peace of mind to know that there will be someone there to take care of us should we need help.”
Whitaker added that volunteer help is crucial during this time where money is tight.
Anyone interested in volunteering their time should contact Whitaker at 234-5801.