CONSTABLE –– Franklin County has cancelled its contract with the Constable Senior Citizens Center, leaving the future of the organization –– and of the building that houses the center –– in doubt.
The cancellation will not affect the provision of meals to the area’s elderly, said Office for the Aging Director Michelle Breen. The Constable site does not offer congregate meals, and the Meals on Wheels deliveries made by the center will be taken over by other adult centers, she said.
No food is prepared at the site, Breen said. Meals are cooked at the Fort Covington Adult Center, and volunteers from Constable drive to Fort Covington to pick them up and distribute them to Constable-area residents, she said.
Meals on Wheels serves approximately 25 seniors in Constable, Town Supervisor Richard Onufer said during discussion of the closure at the Town Board meeting last week. The van used by the center for meal deliveries will likely be given to the Fort Covington Adult Center for the local deliveries, he said.
The decision to end the agreement with the center was “unfortunate” but necessary because of the county’s difficult financial situation, said Office for the Aging Director Michelle Breen. The county had a hard time justifying the outlay because of the limited services the center provides, she said.
Cancellation of the contract was “a very difficult decision,” agreed County Manager Donna Kissane, but a necessary one in light of the anticipated revenue shortfalls that could leave the county in a precarious financial situation.
“It is our reality,” Kissane said.
In addition to the money provided by the county, the center operated on fundraisers and an annual contribution from the town. That contribution was $7,500 in the current fiscal year, down from $10,000 a few years ago as the town too had to tighten its financial belt, Onufer said.
Town Clerk Susan Prue, who is involved in the adult center, noted the organization is made up of only a handful of people and that the center serves primarily as a gathering place –– a use that is discouraged by the COVID-19 outbreak. The site does host some outside events and –– until the pandemic restrictions were put in place –– held a weekly food bingo.
Perhaps the biggest loss to the community as a whole will be the annual townwide garage sale, which was sponsored by the adult center, said Town Councilor Melanie Lemire. The event, which in recent years has involved hundreds of town households, would have marked its 33rd anniversary this year.
The adult center’s Board of Directors is scheduled to meet this week to decide on a course for the future, Prue noted. The building that houses the center is owned by the town, which also uses the space as the town hall, and Onufer has said he would be willing to sell it to the adult center for $1. However, such a sale would leave the center responsible for maintenance, insurance and other expenses currently picked up by the town, Onufer noted.
“There’s a bunch of money they’d be spending that they don’t have,” he said.
If the adult center board doesn’t want to take on the responsibility for the building, it will be offered for sale generally, Onufer added. The town offices are slated to move into a new, larger building over the summer, although the exact date for the move has been rendered uncertain by the COVID-19 outbreak.