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The Shirley Council on Aging (COA) is asking for an override of $16,030 to support the operations of the new Senior center. This figure allows us to operate Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. It will cover the costs of heat, lights, water, sewer, phone, cable access (internet) and general upkeep and repair costs. We believe this will be sufficient for FY11 but with the unknown costs of heat, electricity and maintenance, we can not be sure.

The town has spent over $125,000 in MCI money, coupled with countless hours of volunteer labor, to renovate the building to the jewel (in our eyes) it is today. To have to close it for the winter due to lack of operating funds would be an injustice to the 17,000 hours of donated labor meant to provide a central facility for providing services for our seniors.

As you know, we opened the Senior Center in April. We opened in May with no town-appropriated funds and all the money spent to date to operate the building has come from donations. We thank all of the business and individuals who have been most generous. We expected that the funds we raised, through grants and donations, would be added to the town’s share ($16,030) to allow us to operate more hours during the day and provide more programs. Currently we have covered a significant percentage of the funding gap required to run the building and programs through grants, donations, etc. We are still looking for a significant grant to fund our congregate meals plans

Since May, we have started the following programs: Tai-Chi, yoga, line dancing, cribbage, and painting, as well as continuing the café (drop-in center) and the bridge games. In the fall we hope to add an additional class of painting and Tai-Chi, a bereavement support group and a monthly congregate breakfast. More programs, a Wii exercise program and Wii bowling, congregate lunches, and more frequent breakfasts are all envisioned for 2011. We also added an outreach worker who has made major inroads in contacting seniors who otherwise may not have gotten the help they need.

Currently we do operate programs in the afternoon and are planning to start more in the fall. The donated funds we have will allow us, if the override passes, to continue to offer these programs with no disruption. If the town’s override fails, we will be forced to use the donated funds, currently at about $10,000, to fund the morning operations and that may still not be enough. Certainly the afternoon programs would either cease or be squeezed into the morning. We would also not be able to add any new programs due to a lack of funding for the program itself, but also the ability to heat, etc. the building while the program is operating. It will severely limit our ability to support the seniors with a full range of programs and services. We also hope to provide a “warming center” for seniors who may not have funds for fuel this winter and need a place to go and sit for awhile and get warm with a cup of coffee and a warm room.

A $16,000 override will add about $8 to your yearly tax bill if you have a house valued at about $300,000. A lower value means a lower impact, vice versa if your value is higher. Those in trailer parks, elderly housing and apartments will feel almost no impact.

We have come a long way in a few short months but we have many, many more services we want to offer to the seniors. The Senior Center offers us the best chance to do this by giving us a space and a number of available hours to work with to maximize the schedule and the impact on the seniors. Your $8 will go a long way and in today’s economy. This is a true value for your money.

Please vote YES and thank you

Shirley COA and Director John Oelfke