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Senior center hot topic at HEED

Senior center hot topic at HEED
The owners and tenants of the Harmon and Lucille McWherter Center in Dresden continue to face off in a series of challenges as issues continue to come before the Weakley County Health, Education and Economic Development Committee.
During a HEED committee meeting held Tuesday morning in the conference room of the Weakley County Department of Finance/Education office in Dresden, committee members discussed a recent letter issued to Gail Rogers, director of the county’s Cffice on Aging, by the City of Dresden. The Office on Aging is housed in the McWherter Center in Dresden. Weakley County provides rent to the City of Dresden for the space.
The letter in question requested Rogers to not schedule any activities at the senior center throughout the month of March as the space would be used for the purpose of building two floats for the Iris Festival planned for late April/early May.
Rogers said the impact of shutting down activities for that month would pose financial implications and hinder services provided daily by the center.
Rogers said halting activities would eliminate the walking area for the seniors and Zumba dance classes. She said the facility is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. five days a week and each morning she is met with 30-40 seniors waiting for the building to open. The office on aging also offers potluck meals throughout the month and a fundraiser dance once a month.
Some of the activities are funded through the Northwest Tennessee Development Council on Aging based on the anticipated amount of services provided and seniors served in one year.
“(County Mayor) Houston (Patrick) signs a contract every year for a certain amount of services and if I can’t provide that, it could cut some of my funding,” Rogers said.
With the recent hike in rent from $5,000 a month to $6,500 for the building by the City of  Dresden, commissioner David Hawks commented it appeared as if the city was attempting to get the county out of the building. Several civic organizations in Dresden as well as the parks and recreation department share space in the McWherter Center. The City of Dresden pays utilities.
The terms of a contract signed in 2009 between Dresden and Weakley County stipulate a five-room rental within the building which includes the office on aging/senior center, a walking track open to the public, unrestricted access to the kitchen and an exercise room.
HEED committee chairman and county commissioner Jimmy Westbrook suggested Rogers have a letter drafted to the City of Dresden citing concerns with shutting down services for the entire month of March.
In other business, committee members voted to amend a budget amendment.
The original budget amendment reflected transfers of funds from the recent purchase of county-owned surplus property in Sharon. Some of the money was allotted for the Sharon Senior Center. Other funds were designated for legal services and another line item involved replacement of the courthouse roof.
Questions were raised concerning replacement of the roof at the Weakley County Courthouse as there have been no official bids for the project. After discussion of possibly postponing the replacement, committee member and county commissioner Mike Medling said if the roof leaked, it needed to be fixed now and the county should seek out bids for the cost of the project.
The legal services line item listed in the budget amendment was intended for a pending lawsuit filed by the daughter of a janitor at Westview High School who died last year.
Westbrook explained a custodian who worked through GCA had spent several years at WHS. As the issue of mold at the public school was battled over the years in court, Westbrook said the daughter is claiming her mother’s death was linked to mold.
Committee member and county commissioner Jack Vincent announced he was uncomfortable with the budget amendment as presented and opted to amend the amendment leaving out the funds for the courthouse roof replacement pending official bids, as well as legal services pending determination of the county’s role in the lawsuit.
In other finance news, committee members approved a budget amendment in the School Federal Projects Fund to reflect federal funding cuts.
Weakley County director of schools Randy Frazier reported funding cuts in Special Education and Title money from Washington in the fall have trickled to local school systems. He said all school systems were affected by the federal budget cuts.
In Weakley County, Title II funding was cut $29,000 and Special Education funding was reduced $11,800.
The county’s finance, ways and means committee will meet today (Thursday) to hear more budget amendments and transfers before all of the issues are brought before the meeting of the full body of the Weakley County Commission Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Weakley County Courthouse.

WCP 1.12.12