10:27pm

Tue July 2, 2013
Lexington/Richmond

Privatized Senior Citizens Center Debated by Lexington Leaders

Credit mansfieldnewsjournal.com

  The debate over building a new senior citizen center in Lexington continues.  There remain varying opinions about the best way to serve an expanding population of seniors.

The just-approved city budget includes five million dollars for the beginning of work on a new senior citizens center.  But, a proposal from the Y-M-C-A uses city funds to create a chain of four smaller facilities.  Council member Chris Ford feels that plan goes against their original intent.

“If the question were posed as to whether we want to build a new center or whether we want to take those same five million dollars and fund construction of a YMCA satellite is two different questions,” said Ford.

Ford also worries not enough council members and senior citizens are involved in the discussion.  Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who defended the transparency of his administration, says it’s important to examine all options and resources available.

“It’s is our stewardship responsibility to examine alternatives and options.  It is our responsibility,” said Gray.

Gray says study continues to their space needs and the potential cost.  Council member Ed Lane says the YMCA’s involvement could save taxpayers about four million dollars over a decade.  He reminded the council it should also consider the cost of operating such a facility.

“And I think that’s a big mistake the Council has made on other projects in the past.  We vote in 15 million to build something, but we never closely evaluate the ongoing expenses to operate it over time,” explained Lane.

Lane suggests a thorough survey of senior citizens so the city can get a better handle on their needs and desires.

There’s council consensus the current Nicholasville Road Seniors Citizens Center is overcrowded and the facility stressed.  And Council member George Meyers is convinced Lexington should take on the primary responsibility for building a new center.

“I think we need to build one center.  I think it’s our fiduciary responsibility to maintain control of at least one central center to make sure that the services and programs our seniors need and want will be here long term,” said Meyers.

With that said, Meyers asked about a scaled down proposal in which the city builds a center and the YMCA operates two smaller facilities.  The City’s Chief Administrator Officer promises to provide the latest information about the senior citizens project to Council next Tuesday.