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Four-day work week proposal alarms senior population

Visitors young and old attended a Nov. 12 public hearing regarding the city of Buckley’s 2009 budget.

Included in the congregation of civic-minded individuals were a local Boy Scout troop and several members of Buckley’s Senior Center.

One of the dozen or so cost-saving adjustments proposed in the 2009 budget, brought to the light by Buckley City Administrator Dave Schmidt, was a suggestion that the city should go to a four-day work week, a measure aimed at saving on utilities.

Assuming that the four days involved would be Monday through Thursday, an alarm went off in the minds of the Senior Center’s regular attendees.

“Closing on Fridays would be extremely detrimental to our operation at the senior center,” said Jennifer Bacon, the city’s Recreation Services director. Friday is the busiest day of the week for the senior center, she said, because it is traditionally a “special events” day when the highest number of folks come into the center.

“The over $21,000 in grants that we have appropriated each year, depend a lot on numbers of people being transported to the senior center and having people eating the hot lunches each day,” Bacon said. “If we are reduced to only four days a week, that would cut our numbers and thus jeopardize those grants, which we have come to depend upon.”

Several seniors came to the podium and expressed their concerns to the council, including Josephine Giddings, a member of the Senior Center board.

“The center is like a second home to most of us,” Giddings opined. “This is where we come to enjoy camaraderie with our fellow seniors and make sure that we get at least that one nutritious, hot meal a day.”

Senior Center president Jim Miller voiced his view of the four-day work week.

“Since my wife passed away I have found the center to be a wonderful and welcoming place,” he said. “The van driver comes and picks most of us up just about every day. The company and conversations are great, and one of the most important things is that hot lunch. I mean, I do a little cooking, but you can only heat up a can of soup so many times, without it getting real old, real fast.”

Bacon and others showed their resourcefulness by coming up with what could possibly be a workable solution.

“What we proposed to the city council,” said Bacon, “is closing down the center right after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays so we can save energy costs and still remain open five days a week. I think that the council was amenable to the idea.”

All will learn their fate when the 2009 budget goes before the council for a vote Tuesday night.

Bacon added that it was proposed that the Youth Center have its hours diminished as well, from the current 30 hours a week to 24. Since the newly constructed center is far more energy efficient than the venerable Multi-Purpose Center, there are fewer concerns about energy consumption.

Reach John Leggett at jleggett@courierherald.com or 360-802-8207.

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