Ashland Senior Center may see changes amid budget concerns

Ashland, Ore. — A recent performance audit of the Ashland Parks & Rec Commission concluded more needs to be done to serve the growing community. That has officials looking at reorganizing the Ashland Senior Program. And it isn’t sitting well with the seniors who use it.

90-year-old Bert Harris has been coming to the Ashland Senior Center for decades now. For he and many seniors like him, it’s more than a building.

“This is my home,” Bert Harris says.

And more than a community.

“My family’s here,” Harris explains.

“We need this,” senior Peggy Duvall adds.

But the center is in a tough spot. This biennium’s budget requires the center to cover 20% of it’s expenses over the next two years. Currently,  it’s 100% paid for by tax payer dollars.

“We have two options,” Parks & Rec Director, Michael Black explains, “we earn revenue or we cut expenses.”

Black says the former is more ideal than the latter, but finding ways to earn revenue has yet to be decided.

“We may be looking at innovative programs, outdoor programs, we may looking at other kinds of revenue generating methods like memberships.”

The idea of memberships is not sitting well with seniors on fixed incomes.

Harris says if they were to add a membership fee, it would mean he’s out of the family.

“It would make it just one more hardship,” Duvall adds.

On Tuesday, the senior center subcommittee voted to move forward with recommendations that include forming a subcommittee to provide oversight, reducing operations and staffing for drop-ins and office hours, and moving the program back to the recreation division with a focus on including more of the 55 and up population living in Ashland.

“There are 9,000 people over the age of 55, 6,000 of the 9,000 are over the age of 62,” Black says, “I can not say with the confidence that we are meeting the needs of that 6,000, of those 6,000 people.”

Other possibilities for generating revenue are sponsorships, fundraisers, and applying for grants. Though strongly opposed by those in attendance, the recommendations approved Tuesday, now go before the Parks Commission for acceptance or modification. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 5pm.

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