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Council on Aging might close center

The Lawrence County Council on Aging will consider closing its senior facilities, now that the organization faces a future without levy funding.

Tuesday, August 24, 1999

The Lawrence County Council on Aging will consider closing its senior facilities, now that the organization faces a future without levy funding.

"There are not too many options to look at now," LCCOA executive director Karen Knipp said. "We’ll have to look at the day when we close the doors."

Within the next few weeks, the council’s board of directors will meet to discuss its next move, Mrs. Knipp said.

An additional levy designed to renew funding for the agency failed at the polls in 1997. At least two other levy drives failed last year.

Funding from the agency’s five-year levy ran out Jan. 1, which caused layoffs and cutbacks in services such as senior transportation to doctors, housekeeping and activities at the Ironton center.

Thursday, commissioners rejected the agency’s most recent request that the county sponsor a 0.5-mill levy in November when commission president Bruce Trent withdrew his second on a motion to file the petition.

"I just feel like I responded to the majority of the constituents," Trent said.

Several residents spoke Thursday, armed with complaints that the LCCOA performs duplicate services as other county agencies and that voters had spoken when rejecting past senior levies.

"This is a group that services one part of the county, yet taxpayers from the whole county put into the agency," Trent said. "The people I talked to said we should have had a comprehensive plan to evaluate before the levy."

In other words, voters wanted to know if the LCCOA is going to receive $300,000 in tax funding each year, then what is its plan to expand services throughout the county, Trent said.

"It’s the same thing they asked us when the county commissioners ran a levy – what is your plan?"

The county twice ran a levy to fund senior services of any agency, as long as that agency applied to use the funds. Once, the levy ran head-to-head on the ballot with the LCCOA’s levy.

Voters rejected both county measures and the LCCOA’s because of confusion, which still reigns, Mrs. Knipp said.

"This election was the last opportunity," she said. "With staff laid off, we didn’t have the time to run our own levy."

And the blame should rest with at least part of the commission, she said.

"It doesn’t surprise us," Mrs. Knipp said, adding that the commission’s decision was not based on voter concerns. "I just think it was the two commissioners."

Trent said the commission simply responded to residents who speak loudly against certain levies that do not represent the entire county.

"But the commission has the opportunity to give voters the choice," Mrs. Knipp said. "Senior citizens should have had a chance like anyone else."

Meanwhile, bingo and other fund-raisers that the board began this spring cannot support hundreds of thousands of dollars in services each year, she said.

And the board likely will not consider restructuring the agency to seek other government funding or checking on what grants might be available, she added.

"I think when they meet, they will decide on a date to close."