Discussion continues on senior services at WTC

Published 6:09 pm Friday, May 6, 2022

The Windsor Town Council heard at its regular April meeting the recommendations from the Windsor Town Center Advisory Board on how best to respond to three groups’ proposals for senior programs at the town center.

The recommendations led to further discussion and some questions from council members.

Windsor Town Manager William Saunders shared information on the proposals at the council’s March 8 meeting, noting that one of the groups making a proposal was Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia (SSSEVA), a private, nonprofit organization and the Area Agency on Aging in South Hampton Roads that supports and enriches the lives of seniors and their families through advocacy, education, information and comprehensive services.

In an April 12 staff report, Saunders listed the advisory board’s recommended revisions to the draft Memorandum of Understanding between the town and SSSEVA.

The board recommended SSSEVA programs take place at the town center Monday-Thursday and that they end by 1:45 p.m. due to the stacking of cars in front of the center by parents picking up children after school, with the school day ending at 2:25 p.m.

The advisory board recommended being flexible and accommodating to senior programs to the extent possible when scheduling events and using the numerous areas available in the facility to host different activities concurrently; however, at times town rentals and/or specific, planned Parks and Recreation or county activities may conflict with senior programs.

The board recommended that the Arrowhead Meeting Room in the center be the primary location for the senior program activities, with the gym, art room and lounge used as secondary, alternative locations when necessary.

Next, the advisory board recommended that all parties to the agreement meet between 12 and 18 months following execution of the agreement to determine if any amendments to the terms are necessary.

Saunders also noted in the staff report that the town attorney recommended that termination of the agreement may only occur after parties provide 30 days’ written notice.

Listed under the heading of “Other considerations,” Saunders wrote that the Windsor Town Center Advisory Board did not provide a recommendation as to whether SSSEVA should pay any rental fees for normal programming and/or special event bookings; however, the board did discuss concerns relating to an expected increase in expenses for utilities and professional services — like cleaning, maintenance, etc. — with the additional usage of the facility.

In Saunders’ absence during the Town Council’s April 12 meeting, Windsor Police Chief Rodney “Dan” Riddle presented the board’s recommended revisions, reading them off and then opening the floor to the council for its consideration of the revised draft MOU.

Windsor Mayor Glyn T. Willis said he had talked with Saunders about the potential for senior services programs being offered outside of the defined Monday-Thursday time frame.

“We don’t have anything specific in the MOU about that, of what the accommodations would be for that if Senior Services wanted to do something outside of their normal window of time and whether or not there’d be fees associated with that,” he said.

Councilman Walter Bernacki said he knocked on doors in the community, showing citizens the proposed MOU and asking for their thoughts. Two questions arose from these conversations that citizens wanted answered before the MOU is signed.

If senior services were offered outside of the stated parameters, it would represent an additional expense, and because of this, the citizens wanted to know details about the fees.

Also, Bernacki noted that the proposed MOU says something about the town adding Senior Services as an additionally insured party on its insurance policy.

“I know that some insurance companies, when you add additional insured, they add an additional cost to your insurance policy for that,” Bernacki said. “Is that something that has been budgeted or planned in the budget moving forward, to cover that?”

Councilwoman Kelly Blankenship expressed concern about treating nonprofit organizations differently from each other in terms of fees.

She said she did not think The Woman’s Club of Windsor would appreciate having to pay to have its craft fair at the town center “when we’re going to turn around and give it to someone else for free, and they’re both the same kind of organization.”

She asked Windsor Town Attorney Fred Taylor what position the town would be putting itself in by raising different rates.

Taylor replied, “Mr. Saunders and I actually had some discussions in that regard, and I guess at least procedurally we had anticipated maybe me answering some questions in closed session on that, kind of giving you some specific legal advice.”

Willis agreed to handle that discussion in closed session.

Town Treasurer Cheryl McClanahan suggested a short-term way to handle extra expenses at the center might be American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

“At least for the next two years, we can use some of the ARPA money to help fund the town center to pay for those utility bills and everything else,” she said. “It’s like a loss of revenue because we’re letting Senior Services use it.”

Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia CEO Steve Zollos was present at the April 12 meeting and spoke briefly to the council during its discussion.

“I understand you all have decisions to make about the town center, and whatever you decide is fine with us,” he said. “Just as perspective, I encourage you to look at what we’re bringing as an in-kind payment with the staffing, the meals, the professionals that come in and serve the older adults as well — those are all expenses that we bear in order to provide a service free to the residents of Windsor.”

Blankenship said that the town needs to be conscious that the participants in the programs will not just be Windsor residents but county residents as well.

“I personally pay the county a lot more money than I pay the town,” she said, “and the question that we have to ask ourselves is, ‘Can and should the town’s small budget absorb the expenses to provide this service to 10% of the county’s population. So it’s something to consider.”

Also, given that the town has a pre-existing MOU with the county, Blankenship said she wants to know if the town has support from the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors to enter into this MOU with SSSEVA.

“I don’t know that we know what the county’s plans were or are for expansion of Parks and Rec services in that facility,” he said. “So we’re now entering into an agreement that’s going to narrow down the window of opportunity for them as far as what kinds of services they can bring to the table because we took away these four days. If that’s a decision that we all want to make, great, but what I don’t want is to jeopardize our relationship with the county, and so I feel like we shouldn’t vote on this until we have approval, that the Board of Supervisors says they are in support of this use of the facility with the possible detriment of the growth of Parks and Rec.”

Willis assured Zollos that the town would make an arrangement work for senior services programs.

“It’s just a case of getting through everything to make sure we understand how it’s going to work successfully for us,” he said.