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Aug 9, 2023 (0)
Times are changing, as they say, and the O'Neill Golden Age Center is a victim.
"Due to a sudden employment change in the staff at the center in the last month or so, the board has decided to close the center's doors," said Don Baker, a Golden Age Center committee member. The discussion was at the O'Neill City Council meeting held Monday, August 7.
The Golden Age Center has been a part of O'Neill since the early 1980's and has served the community by providing low-cost meals to the elderly and a place to gather and socialize. The center is not owned by the City of O'Neill and is run by a board of O'Neill citizens. It received funding from the Northeast Agency on Aging.
"Times are changing, and the number of people coming to the center to eat and socialize is diminished. Those people that took advantage of the center in the 80's and 90's are gone, and the next generation went to assisted living and are having the needs serviced by the center taken care of by assisted living facilities,"
"Another part of the equation was the Meals on Wheels program, and The Evergreen is also working on that. The Evergreen will open up its facilities to those dwindling crowds that were using the facility for low-cost meals and the food preparation for Meals on Wheels. Marv Fritz is working on the paperwork to make it happen so the Evergreen can prepare those meals with their facilities and staff.
Now that the Golden Age Center is closed, there is the question of what to do with the facility.
Baker continued to talk about the potential use of the facility. " This is a no-brainer for the city to acquire this property. Due to the fact the building ownership was set up the way it was and owned by a board, the city can receive the building for literally a dollar. The board that owns the Golden Age Center could sell the building, take the profits, and distribute it to non-profits and community organizations. However, that entails a lot of paperwork, and it is logical for the city to take possession and use it.
One option would be to use the building for smaller venues like family reunions or wedding showers, for which the community center would be too big.
Another option would be to house the O'Neill Police Department. The city pays around $4,000 a year in rent to house the police department in a non-ADA-compliant building that would offer more space and parking than currently provided at the rental that the city has been paying for decades.
Councilwoman Susie Kramer wondered what would be the cost to renovate the building to fit the police department's needs and if the building was in good shape.
"The building is good. The roof was recently done. The building was made to meet government standards. It is a no-brainer." Said Baker.
"Another option is if the city can't find a need or doesn't want to keep it, we can acquire the building and then sell it."
After discussing it, the council decided to table it so the council could check out the building.
Also on the agenda for Monday was the discussion on dog ordinances and the impound contract with representatives from the Holt County Animal Shelter.
Therese Sullivan Brockman addressed the board on behalf of the shelter. The shelter voiced their concern over repeat offenders of abuse and neglect and how the police department was limited in their response to how they can handle the calls, as well as if more could be done legally to help dogs that are subject to neglect and abuse, such as more fines and stiffer penalties to the offenders. The shelter also asked if the city would consider having an officer designated as an animal control officer that would be familiar with cases that seem to persist with the usual three or four cases at a time that seem to pop up regarding neglect.
The city rebutted that they probably would not assign one officer to the abuse and neglect cases as particular officers are not always on duty and the cases can happen at any time. City Attorney Boyd Strope added that he would be willing to discuss the situation at hand further with Brockman to help resolve it.
The shelter then discussed renegotiating the impound contract. The contract takes care of animals impounded by the police department, and the city reimburses the shelter for the care of animals impounded. Brockman stated that the animal shelter takes in around $5,000 from boarding and receives help from estate planning gifts and money from the city.
"We all know that the cost of things has gone up from food to the insurance on the building, which took more than a $1,000 leap from last year," said Brockman.
The council looked at some of the figures and seemed unwilling to budge much on the flexibility of what was being given already. The council agreed to table the idea and look at it closer in conjunction with the upcoming budget cycle, which will occur within the next month.
The council approved a levy request for $99,655 for the airport before discussing a cost of living increase for the city employees. Figures from three percent to nine percent were thrown out for discussion.
Last year, the council increased wages by $350,215. The council looked at what other cities were doing and decided to go with a three percent cost of living increase, with all members voting yes except Councilwoman Kayla Burdic, who commented at the meeting that last year's raises were sufficient.
After approving the bills, the council adjourned for the evening.
Welcome to the discussion.