MONTROSE — A dispute regarding the control and operation at the Montrose Senior Center at the Montrose Pavilion has resulted in a seniors group and the city debating the issue through their attorneys, with the senior group claiming the city is not living up to promises it made nearly 30 years ago.
Golden Circle Seniors Inc., a non-profit group of volunteers, accuses the city of not allowing the seniors to operate in the center’s kitchen, and that the city unexpectedly locked the doors denying them access earlier this month.
Montrose City Attorney Stephen Alcorn said Wednesday a temporary agreement was reached last week with GCS attorney Bob Hill and the senior group is back using the kitchen. He said a more permanent contract is pending and will contain language similar to the temporary agreement.
“I expect very few changes from the temporary agreement to the long term agreement,” Alcorn said.
In the late 1980s as a way to get private donations, including land, amassed to help build the Pavilion, the city said a handsome “home away from home” senior center would be built where “seniors themselves will determine what is taught, presented, or made available to do and will control the use of the Center including the kitchen.”
On May 9, members of the senior center arrived to find the kitchen locked; it was not reopened until last Friday, May 16. The GCS group uses the kitchen to operate part of its Hot Wheels meals program.
According to Golden Circle Seniors, Inc. President Madeline Lake, the kitchen is used only for dishwashing right now as the group pursues a commercial cook staff to prepare meals from the kitchen and not rely on local restaurants.
When the doors were shuttered, the group operated out of the United Methodist church on Park Avenue.
“They were extremely gracious,” Lake said of the church’s staff. “We paid for some of the hot water and soap. There are people who are still there who remember when the city agreed that it was theirs.”
Last September, Volunteers of America, the largest senior-assisted living and elderly care provider in Western Colorado, declared its nationally-trademarked service, “Meals on Wheels,” a daily food delivering program to elderly home-bound residents, to be too expensive and cut the program back to bi-monthly deliveries.
A similar program was reinstated by GCS, who formed an Alternative Meals Committee. Along with the city, the group was able to stock the kitchen with new equipment.
The city told GCS they could use the kitchen if they agreed to carry the necessary insurance, an expense the city had always covered. The group agreed to pay the insurance ($800 per year). The city then asked the group to sign a memo of understanding in order to use the kitchen in April. At that point the group refused, with members stating that language from the original agreement had been severely altered.
Alcorn said there was a misunderstanding of the language in the agreement including terms like revocable license, which were not intended to cause controversy. He said there was a high degree of tension and frustration on the part of the senior group, which hampered communication, and added that the new agreement will address all of those concerns to ensure GCS has access to its kitchen.
Alcorn added that the city is looking at ways to use the Pavilion for more events and that it would communicate better to everyone regarding use of the kitchen, including GCS.
“The senior center will always be a big part of that building,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Hot Wheels Meal Program is seeking a cook staff to replace its dependency on local restaurants, who cook the meals for $5. This year the group is seeking vegetable donations through its “Grow a Row for Seniors” program, in which local gardeners can plant a row of vegetables to be donated to the meal program.
Panhandling “Out of Control,” Says Resident
The Montrose City Council heard from resident Jackie Kellen Tuesday that there has been a rise in the amount of panhandling, and the city needs to do something about it.
“Along with it being a nuisance, I think it’s dangerous, at points, and I don’t know what else to say,” she said. “It is really beginning to get on my nerves and a lot of other people’s nerves around here.”
City Manager Bill Bell said there were steps to take to address the issue, but the city must be careful not to infringe on anyone’s rights. He said the city is looking to draft ordinances similar to those passed by the City of Grand Junction, and that people who want to help should donate to organizations offering assistance instead of handing out cash.