The director the Bonney Lake Senior Center, Sue Hilberg, made a trip to the most recent City Council workshop to provide information about an issue that’s been brought up in council a few times over the last several months.
Since May, questions have risen about why the senior center sends a bus to pick participants in Pierce County and even King County as well as city residents.
“We’ve numerous times been concerned about the bus leaving the city for non-residents to go to activities,” councilman Tom Watson said at the meeting.
One of the main concerns, Watson said in a later interview, was that the city was not getting reimbursed by other cities and counties to transport their citizens to the senior center.
In total, there are around 1,450 registered seniors with the senior center, growing at an average rate of 100 seniors a year. According to Hilberg, approximately 50 percent of those seniors live in the city, and the other 50 percent live outside city limits.
Out of those 1,450 seniors, approximately 92 people regularly ride the bus to get to the senior center. Of those, around 50 people come from inside the city, and 42 come from other areas in Pierce County.
Some citizens come from Sumner. According to Hilberg, the Sumner senior center doesn’t have its own transportation program, so seniors in the city who can’t get to Sumner’s center can get bused to Bonney Lake.
Some of these Sumner residents used to be regular Bonney Lake Senior Center participants until they moved into senior housing in Sumner, so Hilberg talked to the Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow to get permission to continue picking up these seniors.
And as far as going into King County, “the only time we go into King County to pick up someone is if Phil (the bus driver) is on a trip and that senior… lives on his path,” Hilberg said. “As he’s passing through, he will pick them up. But he will not make a special trip to pick someone up out of city.”
In total, it costs the city an average of $600 per month for fuel, plus around $700 per month for the driver, coming to a total estimated cost of $1,300 per month to operate the senior center’s transportation services.
In terms of reimbursement from other cities and counties, Watson recalled the city receiving a $10,000 grant from Pierce County in the past for senior services. In recent years, the city hasn’t received that grant, he said.
City Clerk Woody Edvalson said the county does have a budget for senior centers, but the funds are limited, so the city has elected in the past to not pursue those grants.
“There are smaller senior centers than us who are struggling more than we are who rely on those funds,” said Edvalson. “If we also compete for those funds, they may not get what they need to continue to operate.”
According to Edvalson, the senior center does receive many grants, but largely from non-governmental organizations.
“Anybody that has a grant program, I’ve applied,” Hilberg said.
The grants that come to the senior center through the center’s 501(c)3 Advisory Board do not go to the operational costs of the center, Edvalson said. Instead, they go to various improvements for the center, like buying appliances and vehicles.
“The operational budget is solely funded by the city of Bonney Lake,” Edvalson said. “The seniors do pay an amount toward their meals, and that helps offset what we pay for their meals.”
Repairs and remodels
Between now and 2020, the Bonney Lake Senior Center is looking to make some improvements to its existing building off Bonney Lake Boulevard.
Already being addressed is the modification of the kitchen hood and fire protection system.
According to the senior center, the kitchen hood doesn’t meet code requirements and needs to be updated in order to adequately remove heat and gas from the kitchen.
The same goes for the fire suppression system – the chemicals used to extinguish a fire in the building does not meet code and the system is considered obsolete by the state Fire Marshal.
“This is a health/safety issue and is the highest priority of all items on this list,” reads a senior center document listing various projects.
The total cost of replacing the hood and fire suppression system is estimated to be more than $58,000.
Other projects the senior center wants to tackle soon due to its 25th anniversary in September is to install an air conditioner in the kitchen (around $16,000), various painting and repairs made to the exterior and interior of the building (between $7,500 and $25,000), and replacing the floor coverings, especially in the bathrooms (just over $47,000).
For the senior center’s 2017-2018 budget cycle, it would like to see new chairs for its participants (around $5,600), replacing two air handler units and get a new gas line (close to $35,000 all together) and restore or replace the roof of the building (either $40,000 or $96,000 respectively).
All projects are dependent on funding ability.