Modulars could be senior center

Published 1:02 pm Thursday, June 12, 2014

Almost two years after the Sybene Senior Center in South Point closed sending many seniors searching for a place for their noontime meals, community leaders think they may have an answer for those eastern end clients.

“We would like to open up the modular units at the (Chesapeake) Community Center as a senior center,” county commissioner Bill Pratt said.

The modulars were set up approximately five years ago on the campus of the community center by the Chesapeake school district for its preschool classes.

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“This past school year they moved the Headstart classes to the elementary and left this building vacant,” Pratt said. “We could have meals there three days a week for seniors.”

For years the Sybene center, owned and operated by the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, was a location for daily congregate meals for seniors in the eastern end. The meals were prepared at the center, which was also used by seniors as a place to meet to work on craft projects, take classes and socialize. It was also used by community groups needing a large meeting room.

When it was closed, seniors had the option of using the CAO center in Ironton, where meals are still served, but nothing closer.

The defeat of a senior citizen services levy, much sought after by the CAO, in November of 2011 dramatically cut senior programming in the county, including shutting down the Sybene center the following summer. The one-mill levy, defeated by only 95 votes, would have brought in $800,000 a year for five years to keep current programs at full capacity, plus expansion of other services.

“The big issue has always been getting services in the eastern part of the county,” Ralph Kline of the CAO, said. “Lawrence County has no local support. Most of the other counties do. We tried to operate programs from other revenues and donations. You can’t support a lot of overhead and the opportunity came up with the modulars.”

The CAO wants to establish a satellite center at a proposed low-income senior housing complex in Rome Township across from the Fairland East Elementary School. A few months ago, however, the CAO lost its bid for tax credits, delaying that project for at least another year.

“If we could do (a center at Chesapeake) and not have the big support of a facility like Sybene, it might give us the opportunity to do it fairly inexpensively without a lot of overhead to provide services for senior,” Kline said.

Pursuing the idea of using the modular units is only in the investigative stage and would need the support of the local area office on aging, Kline said. The move would also need the approval of the Chesapeake school district.

Pratt said he expects startup costs to be no more than $5,000, including getting a steam table and a cooler for meal preparation.