The Chilkat Valley Preschool and users of the Haines Senior Center have agreed on a memorandum of understanding for both preschoolers and seniors to use the building. Now they need approval from the borough assembly to move forward. The Haines Senior Citizens Center Board talked about the agreement at its first meeting since handing over management of the senior center.
There have been some major changes since the last time the senior center board met. After decades managing the center, the board handed over the keys to the borough, because it wasn’t financially able continue with management. Some board members thought the borough might offer them more financial support, but instead, the preschool entered the picture.
Within less than a month, Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan worked with the preschool and seniors to come up with an agreement for both groups to use the senior center.
Susan Tandy and Linda Geise are representing the senior community in the discussions. (The senior center board is not involved, but some of its members are involved independently in the negotiation.)
“Everybody that came to that table had certain priorities and when we walked away, everybody felt that their needs had been met,” Tandy said.
Geise says she’s heard from more than 20 people, and just three have been against the collaboration.
“The rest of the people that have called me and talked to me, have let me know that these are very vulnerable ages, our seniors and our little guys,” Geise said. “And they felt that it was very beneficial to join the two vulnerable ages together and have a safe and secure area for both age groups.”
Tandy says the priority for seniors was to not lose any space where they have lunch, exercise, and other activities.
“The majority of seniors said, ‘if the preschool wants to add on, that’s fine with us, but don’t take any of our space,'” said Tandy.
That’s one of the conditions in the MOU. It says that the preschool will provide an initial $50,000 to expand the facility by 1,000 square feet. That addition would house the preschool. Ryan says they’re not sure where the expansion would go, but he thinks the side of the building facing the playground is the best option so far.
“My personal preference right now is to put it off the end of the pantry, so it would span the width of the building and be about 20 feet wide,” Ryan said.
If the preschool moves in, it would take over management of the senior center. It would be in charge of renting the space out for community use. The MOU says the preschool would get 25 percent of the rental fees, except from Southeast Senior Services, or SESS, which is the main tenant of the center. SESS rents the building for the senior lunch program. The MOU dictates their rent would remain at $800 per month until the end of 2016.
The MOU also asks that the borough allow the preschool to stay in their current facility, the Borough Human Resources Building, through June 2017. Right now, the deadline to move out is June of 2016. But that’s not enough time to build an addition on the senior center.
The preschool/senior center agreement will likely be on the borough assembly agenda at the December 15 meeting.
Since the senior center board is no longer managing the center, they talked about whether to change their name. The board’s main responsibility now is management of the senior village.
“I guess from my own personal view is we would have to weigh how much it would help versus what kind of headache [it would cause], and financial, it’s also going to be financial for us to change this name,” said board member Mardell Gunn.
The board chose to table the idea for a few months. With such a major change in their management responsibilities, they decided to take some time to adjust to the new situation before making another change.