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Senior Center proposal would add staff

A proposal to hire a superintendent and increase personnel by one full-time position at the Ashland Senior Center will result in financial cuts to other divisions in Parks and Recreation, the city's parks director said at a meeting Monday.

Under its current structure, the Senior Center has $151,000 to fund 1.25 full-time positions. A plan approved by an ad hoc committee Monday night would increase the staff to 2.75 full-time positions, with a superintendent leading the program.

It would cost parks at least $125,000 more annually, bringing its personnel budget to $268,374. It includes a new full-time coordinator, two part-time office support positions and a referral specialist.

“I want to make it clear that there’s no big pot of money that we have in the APRC budget,” said Mike Gardiner, parks commissioner and ad hoc committee member. “If we make this recommendation, that means some other programs will be cut — either back or out.”

The proposal comes amidst an approaching recall election that targets three parks commissioners, included Gardiner. The recall effort launched after the commission voted to effectively dismiss the Senior Center’s former manager in August. One of the targeted commissioners, Jim Lewis, has filed a formal complaint alleging that the petitioners used false statements to solicit signatures for the recall.

Parks Director Michael Black endorsed the plan. The plan is to move money in the current budget to cover the increase for the next fiscal year.

“I don’t have the full details right now. … (The plan) costs a lot of money, but we don’t argue with this. This is just what it costs,” Black said. “There will be impacts — we will efficiently function, but there will be areas that we cut back.”

The department will also look for ways to reduce costs, Black said. A complete report will be presented to APRC for approval in April or May, Black said.

“I do think the revenues will increase. I think it’s a natural part of a good program that revenues will increase,” Black said.

Black said at the meeting that a projected $5.9 million deficit in the parks budget by 2021-23 is “incorrect.”

“The Finance Department is looking into this and verbally said that these pages (in the budget) were wrong,” Black said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s not accurate.”

Gardiner said the Senior Center will become more important to parks and the city after the reorganization.

“There’s a growing interest in the city right now,” Gardiner said. “The city has goals regarding seniors and social services, but they don’t have anything in place to make that happen yet. The Senior Center could be that.”

The committee also approved at the meeting a suggestion to recommend a process to establish a Senior Center advisory board made up of five citizen members, a parks commissioner and a city council liaison.

The application process for the board would be similar to the process for any committee or commission in the city, parks staffer Rachel Dials said.

“Its goal is to advise and coordinate with the (Senior Center) superintendent regarding the program,” she said.

The appointing process will start Feb. 28 and conclude March 28, Dials said. The plan is for the committee to meet in May and potentially participate in the recruiting of the center’s new superintendent.

Commissioner Rick Landt, one of three commissioners facing recall, said he’s wary of the language used to describe the advisory board.

“To me, ‘coordinate’ is not quite the right word to describe the relationship between this board and the commission,” Landt said, citing problems with the advisory board in the past. “There’s going to be a lot of expertise on this board … but we don’t want to create another power base.”

Staff said the advisory board will only advise the commission, adding that there will be two commissioners on it.

— Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.