The Paducah-McCracken County Senior Center is located at H.C. Mathis Drive and there’s no current plans to change that, according to officials Wednesday, after confusion arose from McCracken County Fiscal Court’s budget workshop.
During the virtual workshop, Judge-Executive Craig Clymer and other officials went over funding requests Tuesday from local organizations, including the Senior Center, which sought $25,000 for fiscal year 2021. The Senior Center received $25,000 in fiscal 2019 and $4,375 in fiscal 2020.
The county proposes to give zero funding for fiscal 2021.
“The numbers showed us that they were quite well off financially,” Clymer told The Sun.
The county requires people to pay their taxes and the public entrusts the county to spend tax revenue wisely, Clymer said.
Clymer said the Senior Center meets its expenses annually, but added the “main thing” is it has more than $1 million in a certificate of deposit and $126,000 in cash. The Senior Center has support from different sources, such as grants and donations.
“They could even do without any revenue from any source and pay their expenses from a CD and cash, according to what their financial report is,” he said. “ ... I wish the county was in such a strong financial position. We’re just not. It’s a simple math and government theory question is, ‘Are we going to give money to somebody (who) really doesn’t need it to provide the services that they do?’ ”
Tuesday’s budget workshop shed light on an apparent misunderstanding between the city of Paducah and the Senior Center, which is located within a city building at 1400 H.C. Mathis Drive.
The grant application form requested a list of capital improvement projects organizations expect to undertake in the future and the Senior Center expressed uncertainty about its building location, referencing Paducah’s proposed recreation/aquatic center project at Noble Park. The project’s design agreement is temporarily suspended.
“We will be assisting with funds of $100,000 this fiscal year to assist in the repair of the roof on the building that we are currently using,” the Senior Center form states. “ ... Additionally, due to the construction of the aquatic center, we have been notified by the city that the Senior Center may have to relocate as they will not be able to help with the funding of our current building.
“The building is owned by the city and they are unsure on the plans for it at the moment. We will not be able to afford the building on our own, so we will need to either build or buy a new building. Both options will be costly.”
City Manager Jim Arndt and Mayor Brandi Harless later clarified the matter and expressed support for the organization.
“The city of Paducah remains supportive of the Senior Center by housing their organization in the Parks and Recreation building and either covering or sharing the cost of that facility as we always have,” Harless said, on her mayoral Facebook page.
“The McCracken County commissioners, separate from the city of Paducah, has proposed to stop their funding to the Senior Center this year due to a budget shortfall.”
Harless said a conversation took place in January with the Senior Center, in regards to the organization using the recreation/aquatic center project as its new home. She said “all agreed” that wouldn’t work out and it was decided things would stay the same.
In his response, Arndt sent a letter to Senior Center executive director Christine Thompson saying it came to his attention that she “may be under the impression” the Senior Center’s tenant status in the future is in jeopardy.
“I wanted to let you know in writing that this is not the case,” Arndt stated. “Your organization is a valued community partner and the services you provide not only to our residents, but also senior citizens in western Kentucky, are greatly appreciated.”
In the letter, Arndt said the city discussed including the Senior Center in prospective tenant space, when developing plans to construct the recreation/aquatic center.
After talks with Thompson and Senior Center board members, he explained it was apparent the recreation/aquatic center wouldn’t be able to meet two of its services, referencing the Meals and Wheels program and daily meals.
“However, during that same meeting, we discussed our goal to make sure your members still have access to the facility even if your ‘home’ would not be there,” he continued. “The city has no current plans that would compel the Senior Center to leave your current home.”
Thompson also provided a statement to The Sun.
“We could not accomplish our goals without the support and involvement of our local partners and volunteers, including the support we receive from the city and county,” it read, in part.
“Since the center temporarily closed in March due to the pandemic, we have delivered over 700 meals a week to homebound seniors, made 1,200 reassurance calls and served 1,600 drive through meals to seniors affected by the pandemic.”