Seniors Groups Ask For City Help

It was a full house at City Council as representatives for two senior facilities were at the podium asking for the City to provide financial lifelines to keep their prospective organizations financially afloat.

The Cosmo Senior Citizens Centre and Moose Jaw and District Seniors were at the corner of Fairford and Main asking Council to start the process of providing financial assistance and relief to keep the two organizations viable.

At the end of the presentation they did not leave with any money in hand but the process to start looking into providing assistance received a unanimous approval from Council.

Photo By Roxanne Ashe - Virtual Interiors Photography

Photo By Roxanne Ashe - Virtual Interiors Photography

Speaking on behalf of the Cosmos president Bill Smith said the group was looking for assistance to help build up their capital reserves because over the last five years they had been depleted by 50 percent. Any sudden unexpected bill for repairs could effectively wipe out the Centre, he said.

Smith spoke about the building of the Cosmos Senior Citizens Centre in 1960 and how it was seen as a major driver behind the well being of citizens 50 plus and over.

“Some were medical doctors their belief was it helped improve people’s mental and physical health and relieve pressure on the medical system and we agree with that,” Smith said.

“We are having difficulty keeping up with ever increasing costs…in the last five years we have had to use 50 percent of our capital reserves.”

Lori Friars, speaking on behalf of Moose Jaw and District Seniors, said the financial concerns at the group’s home at the Timothy Eaton Centre - 510 Main Street N - was a little bit different as they were using their reserves to pay their operating costs and without any kind of assistance their group would have to shut the doors and turn the keys back over to the City.

Friars said the financial problems for Moose Jaw and District Seniors was two-fold.

First in 1994 the province cut funding to seniors groups and then monies brought in from bingos were decimated when Casino Moose Jaw launched.

“We have less than $40,000 left and if nothing changes we are going to have to close the doors and hand the keys back to the City,” Friars said.

Friars spoke about the financial share the Moose Jaw and District Seniors had to pay to keep the building they were in operational.

Those percentages were 46.4 percent of SaskEnergy, 63 percent of SaskPower, 51.27 percent for water, 33.3 percent for the elevator and 46.9 percent of the buildings insurance cost.

“We have been paying $11,000 ….we expect the bill to come in this month and to expect a substantial increase,” she said, adding the group also has to pay $2100 for their own insuarance. A flood in the building a few years back when a fire hydrant was opened and the cast iron pipe broke came not out of the building’s insurance but the group’s insurance.

The City increasing Downtown parking rates has a major impact on the Group’s attendance and finances, she said.

“Each time the parking rates are increased we see a decrease in our participants,” Friars said.

Friars said Moose Jaw and District and Seniors was looking for three things from the City.

First the return of the former Eatons store parking lot back to the auspices of the group the same as when the Timothy Eatons Cente was initially built.

Secondly the negotiating of a new lease with the City which expired in 2010 ansd no meeting has occured to even discuss it.

And finally immediate and on-going financial support on a monthly basis. Friars said it would work out to approximately $60,000 annually.

“The loss of the centre will be a huge loss to the city and the citizens of Moose Jaw,” Friars said.

In questioning Councillor Scott McMann said one thing he would like to see is how much the groups were requesting.

“At some point we need a number it will be this and no more,” Councillor McMann stated.

Councillor McMann went on to say he had been hearing in the community people asking why can’t the two groups amalgamate?

“Somewheres along the line we need to "see a concerted effort,” he said.

Friars responded “we are quite far apart.”

“We certainly do things different and there would be a real difficulty at this point to amalgamate…we have a lot of different programs than they do.”

Friars spoke about how the Moose Jaw and District Seniors group had put out a survey into what was wanted at the Centre and had had some feedback as a way to start new programs and bring on more revenue.

Yoga is a program they are looking at as part of the survey.

Councillor Brian Swanson asked about the revenues the Moose Jaw and District Seniors received from commercial tenants in the Timothy Eaton Centre and was told it was from two spas but the revenues from other commercial tenants went to the City.

Councillor Swanson said he remembered being present 30 years ago when the Timothy Eatons Centre was built and there was some friction between the two seniors groups.

“(Back then) they had no desire to work together and it is still a sensitive issue,” he said adding there had to be a “synthesis of organizations especially where it can save money.”

Councillor Swanson went on to state City facilities run by arm’s length boards received significant amounts to pay for utilities and custodial services. The Art Museum received $258,000, Cultural Centre $200,000 and the Moose Jaw Public Library $250,000 respectively for utilities and custodial services.

“There seems to be a lack of consistency. We will subsidize youth, cultural and the library and when it comes to senior citizens we seem to draw the line,” Councillor Swanson said.

He went on to state that any assistance could not come from new monies in the budget because money was needed for cast iron water main replacement.

Mayor Fraser Tolmie responded there were differences because the subsidized thrd party operated facilities were “open to everyone.”

Mayor Tolmie stated there was an “opportunity for and maybe a potential of these two groups have conversations and further conversations.”

“I feel we live in a community where we have to honour those who have gone before us,” he said.

Councilor Heather Eby spoke about a long term solution.

“I think we need to realize whatever decision we make it needs to be sustainable…not only for us but your organizations…I do agree there needs to be soe coming together in some way, shape or form…we all need to take the time to work this out properly,” Councillor Eby stated.

Councillor Dawn Luhning stated there was not a lot of time to find a resolution and the process needed to start quickly.

“The problem I worry about getting caught in red tape of bureaucracy,” Councillor Luhning stated, adding there needed to be a start in considering an amalgamation of the two groups.

Councillor Swanson made a motion that Administration meet with the Moose Jaw and District Seniors Association in the next two weeks to discuss the longterm viability with the two groups and provide a report back to Council.

The motion passed unanimously.

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